OZYMANDIAS TIMES TWO

The famous poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley presents a bleak view of past glory.  Lesser known is that this work resulted from a contest, as did his wife’s classic horror tale, “Frankenstein.”  Reprinted below are both Shelley’s version and that of Horace Smith.  While Shelley’s has greater appeal for its poetic form, I think that Smith’s rendition has more value due to the lesson it presents, a cautionary tale of the all too common fate of empire.  Please read and judge for yourself.

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REALITY IS NOT… REAL

During a recent information overload I began to question the basis for defining reality.  Researching various descriptions of the term led to exacerbating the original condition but it also provided for a fascinating foray into something most of us take for granted, the existence of reality.

What is real?  To pull an apolitical example of the conundrum from our current political landscape, consider the dichotomy presented by the President of the USA.

Here is a man loved by half of the country, hated by the other half.  Without regard to which side you are on, your feelings are likely to be strong.  Half see him as an angel with a slightly rusted halo, sacrificing an affluent, pampered lifestyle in his effort to make this country a better place for all its citizens.  The other half view him as a villain, a misogynistic, homophobic bigot who only sought office to personally grow his already too large bank account.

Each side believes in their truth, each side acts on their truth.  But the “truths” are mutually exclusive and therefore cannot both be true.  Both cannot be reality.

An ancient reality points to the persistence of belief.  Heliocentrism, that the sun revolves around the earth, was an accepted reality until first questioned by Philolaus in the 4th century BCE, yet it remained the accepted reality until Galileo in the 16th century CE.  This was a “reality” that required two thousand years to vanquish.

On a lighter note, there is a reality in which prayer can cause rain to fall.  In times of drought primitive societies around the globe have used prayer to bring needed rain.  The technique involved prayer, and sometimes dancing, which continued until the rain began.  We might argue cause and effect but the operational reality is that the prayer caused the rain.

A TV ad for a DNA testing company showed a man who said he had long believed himself descended from German ancestors.  He belonged to German cultural organizations, wore lederhosen, and had a large circle of friends within that community.  The testing showed that he was actually of Scots descent so he traded in the lederhosen for a kilt.  Did reality change?  What of all the people he interacted with as a descendant of Germany, did they suddenly disappear?  Perhaps only his perception changed and with minimal effect on anything else.

If reality is truth, truth reality, then what of the polygraph.  The venerable lie detector can actually only detect deliberate falsehood.  What the subject believes to be true will record as being true.  Again, perception creating reality.

There are 7.7 billion inhabitants on this planet.  I would venture a guess that something close to 100 percent of them would accept as reality that plunging a hand into boiling water would be painful.  A significantly smaller number would accept as reality the proposition that chocolate tastes good.

And now let’s turn stage right and move deep into the weeds.  Quantum physics seems to indicate that all matter, all time and all space are interwoven into a single entity, a construct that acts according to a body of law as yet undecipherable to we humans.

In this developing science objects being observed can move instantly from point to point, manifest at two or more spatial points at the same time or even move along parallel tracks at speeds that vary one from the other.  In this new universe, seemingly scripted by Lewis Carroll, all bets are off.  Perception is no longer reality because what we perceive is in constant flux, ever changing.

While the points of illustration that bolster our discussions of reality can range from the sublime to the ridiculous, the question remains, what is real?  In this progression from flat earth to quantum physics perhaps our linchpin to sanity, our systemic matrix, comes down to shared perceptions within those groups we identify with and the civility to peacefully understand, accept and work with the perceptions of others that do not quite dovetail with our own.

Thank you for the time you have invested in reading this and I value your opinion.

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WORDS MEAN THINGS

I have written in the past about the problematic aspect of definition creep, the insidious way in which the meaning of words can change over time while being used as if their original definition was still in effect.

This will be another brief foray that subject area while disguising a blatant commercial announcement of the publication of my newest book.

The book, “Thought and After Thought,” falls within the loosely interpreted genre of poetry, itself an example of definition creep, and below is an excerpt  from the book
illustrating that such things as truth and reality depend on having the very words that describe them remain constant throughout the passage of time.
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TRUTH AS A MUTABLE SYSTEM

The earth was flat when it was flat,
Zeus ruled a pantheon while he existed.

Cartographers explained areas not explored,
With simple notation, “here there be tygers.”

Elusive cities of gold spurred mass migrations,
As did fountains flowing with immortality.

The ancient truths, no longer believed,
Are regarded as having never been true.

Yet in their time their was no other truth,
No alternate reality.

No matter where you are in history,
Revising history creates new truth, a new reality.


 

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Consistency in the very fabric of reality depends on constancy in the definitions of the words used to describe it.

The book is available from my publisher: http://www.lulu.com
and will soon be listed on Amazon and at other fine booksellers.

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WHAT’S IN A WORD?

It’s great to be back.  Those who have honored me in the past by reading my submissions will remember that I have several self-published books.  After a four year hiatus I am attempting to reinvigorate the muse and, in a effort to ease back into the craft, I have published a “poetry” book, my third.

I use the word “poetry” loosely because the term no longer restricts itself to work similar to that of Longfellow, Keats or Shelly.  Poets of old were required to stay within strict guidelines, today anything goes.  What we call free verse might better be called stream of consciousness writing.  At any rate, working in this manner does help to get the creative juices flowing again.

The new book, titled “Thought And Afterthought,” is available through the publisher, LULU.com, and will soon be listed at Amazon and other fine booksellers.

Below you will find an excerpt from the book, chosen because it closely follows the subject of my most recent blog post in this space:

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DEFINITION CREEP

Within memory ‘decimate’ meant to kill one in ten,
A gay person was simply light-hearted or happy.

At the founding of the U.S.and A. ‘regulate’
Had nothing to do with controlling industry,
It merely meant to make uniform.

A couple appearing as guests on a day time talk show said,
“We’ve been dating for five years and have three kids.”

Such examples could fill a book.

Murder is illegal, abortion is not.

A future headline might read:
“In order to protect the mother’s mental health,
A Virginia coupe ‘aborted’ their 17 year old, drug addicted son.”

There is no need to change the rules
If you can change the definition.

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Thanks for visiting, and I welcome your thoughts or comments.

 

 

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A RESQUIESCAT FOR UNCLE SAM

Our uncle is dying.  He lies, stretched at full length, eyes bulging, limbs twitching, life’s blood oozing from countless slashes.  This once proud symbol, the tall man, clad in patriotic colors, stovepipe hat and white beard, will soon be no more.

Ironically, his demise will result from the application of the aspirations and goals he, himself, espoused.  The quest for freedom, justice and equal opportunity for all were the seeds of his downfall.

This is not to say that these are less than admirable goals.  They were, and are ideals to be desired and fervently sought.

But the founders of this republic, those men who first codified such goals into our guiding documents, could never have dreamed of the danger inherent in definition creep.  They could not even suspect that over time the very meaning of the words they wrote would change yet still be applied as if they expressed the original intent.

They could not know that future generations would use those words to destroy that which they had sacrificed so much to establish, all in the interest of seizing power and for personal gain.  The founders did not have the benefit of George Orwell’s vision of truth that, simply stated, points out that whoever controls the definition of the words in a language controls reality.

Uncle Sam is dying, a fact that was predictable from the beginning and should have been anticipated all along.  America is a once and future great nation.  Or not, depending on your ideological view.  But in the final analysis, it doesn’t matter.  All nations, great or small, all empires, will follow an arc of history.  Most will exit history’s stage, not with a bang but with a whimper.

The only constant in this universe is change and America is changing.   The noble goal of guaranteed equal opportunity has morphed into a quest for guaranteed equal outcome.  The dream of those now entering into the ranks of leadership is that there be no winners, no losers, only participants.  That there can be no national borders because as Rousseau put it, “You are lost if you forget the fruits of the earth belong to everyone, the earth itself belongs to no one.”

There can be no longer be a guiding ethos based on the concept of a supreme being because supreme beings tend to restrict human activity with those pesky old morality codes.

Political leaders must be now chosen through universal suffrage, without regard to whether or not the voter has even the slightest inkling of how government works or what powers actually reside in those offices being filled.  The founders of this nation knew that only those with skin in the game should logically have a say in how the game is being played.

Wherever total equality is to be found it will be at the expense of individual achievement.  Universal equality will always exist at the lowest common denominator of its population base and will insist that no one person have more, do more, or be more than anyone else.

In his death throes, Uncle Sam elevated a man to the position of CEO of America who, love him or hate him, promised to make America “great” again.  The arc of history is against him.  His effort is best compared to that of King Canute, seated on his throne at the sea side, commanding the tide to turn.

Like it or not, the America we have known will continue to change.  Just as 21st century America would be unrecognizable to our ancestors living in the 18th century, the future America will be foreign to those of us alive today and whether or not that America will be great will not be judged by our current viewpoints but by those of the people of that time.

History teaches that all empires have origin, zenith and nadir.  From The Persians, Greeks and Romans of ancient times to the British Empire of recent history, all have exited, stage left, into the dustbin of time.

That the America we know will end is a given, we can only hope that it morphs into something positive while avoiding the fate of Ozymandias.

My advice is that we educate ourselves to the issues, vote according to our values, make changes when and where we can, accept that which we cannot change, then relax and enjoy the reality show that shapes our personal journey through history.

Thank you for time you have invested in this and I welcome your opinion or comments.

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POLITICS ASIDE

Justice Kavanaugh may have been seated on the supreme court but the controversy is far from over because nothing was actually settled.  Most people view the debacle as a political battle; nothing could be farther from the truth.  The goal for both sides might well have been to score political gains but the arena was in the judicial field.

It is beyond question that the sequence of events surrounding the Kavanaugh confirmation has divided this country more widely than ever and unless some resolution is made it will continue to do so.

Below is the text of a letter that I wrote to the Viewpoints Editor of the Houston Chronicle the day before the confirmation vote  It was published in the October 7th edition

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“We are currently writing an ugly chapter in our national saga.  Without regard to whether Judge Brett Kavanaugh is seated on the Supreme Court, his nomination and the pushback against it will leave lasting scars on our political and judicial systems.  If left unresolved the allegations brought against Kavanaugh will cause irreparable harm to the nation.

As it stands now we have his truth, Christine Blasey Ford’s truth but not the truth.  Both sides have highly vocal supporters vociferously defending what they perceive to be the facts but lacking evidence to support their positions.  If our traditional approach to jurisprudence is to be regained and maintained this conundrum must be solved.  However, it will not be unraveled by the legislative branch of the government nor in the court of public opinion.

Our only hope for reaching the truth lies in the judicial system.  Each person who has submitted sworn affidavits or testimony in the Kavanaugh controversy must be brought before a grand jury and have their statements properly vetted.

A seated Justice Kavanaugh, if found to be in the wrong, could be impeached and then brought up on criminal charges  If others are found to be guilty of perjury or other offenses they need to face whatever consequences the law dictates.  Someone one is not being truthful and their lies are tearing this nation apart.

This controversy cannot be allowed to continue, the dangers to our country are too real and too grave for this to be swept under the rug and ignored.”

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If an advantage can be gained by being untruthful and there are no repercussions for lying under oath, there is also no incentive to be truthful.

Thank you for taking time to read this post and I welcome your comments.

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ACA AKA AHA -DOA

I have long believed that if someone supposedly working toward a stated agenda is using anything other than the simplest means possible to achieve that agenda you can be sure their stated agenda is not their true agenda.  So it is with repeal and replace.

Amid cheers and jeers, depending on which side of the aisle you reside, the newest iteration of repeal and replace has gone down in flames.  For seven years Republicans have waxed eloquently on the subject and crafted many pieces of legislature addressing repeal, knowing full well that President Obama would never sign any of it.  Now with a Republican president vowing to sign the bills none are forthcoming.

On the Democrat side the voices were raised in support of fixing the ACA but it was all empty talk designed to impress the base.  Neither side actually worked to advance their stated agenda.

If we stop looking for complicated reasons the why of this all becomes crystal clear.  By the most widely accepted number health care consumes 6 percent of our national GDP and there are some sources that place the number as high as 17.1 percent.  At either end of the scale that is a huge chunk of change.

These funds are largely controlled by the insurance industry but it is a secret desire among members of both houses of Congress that the money  would be better controlled by the legislature.  In other words, a single payer system.

You won’t hear much open discussion of government controlled health care for a couple of reasons:  There is not yet enough popular support in the electorate to provide cover for the early advocates of such a system and the insurance industry spends far too much money buying legislation favorable to conducting its business.  The recipients of that largess are not willing to abandon it until something to replace it has been firmly established.

And so they dither while waiting for the current system to collapse under its own weight.

Personally I support the idea of a single payer system, not because I am against free enterprise but because I am opposed to the insurance industry as a whole.  If you are too young to have been involved with insurance some 25 years ago ask an older relative or friend how it was back then.  The insurance industry used to have as its model customer service first, the good of the injured party foremost.  If this were still true I would be firmly in their corner but it all changed in 1992.

Read the Huffington Post article attached and you will see the beginning of the end for service based insurance.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/13/insurance-claim-delays-industry-profits-allstate-mckinsey-company_n_1139102.html

That which started with Allstate spread rapidly throughout the industry.  Today every family will have some member who has a horror story to relate about an insurance company.

Many industrialized nations have adopted single payer health care, some good, some bad and some completely incompetent.  I cannot help but believe that given so many decades of combined experience it would be possible for a group of fairly intelligent experts to assess the relative merits and drawbacks of those various systems and based on the experience of others, craft a system that would be fair and equitable for our citizens.

I would also support a constitutional amendment making universal health care, cradle to grave, to include dental and vision, a right of every US citizen.  Full disclosure; As a vet with a service connected disability I have the VA and no need of the ACA in any form.

Congress has somewhere between 6 and 17.1 percent of the GDP to play with.  That should be enough to fund a single payer system.  It’s time for them to abandon the charade and move toward what they all really want.

I’ll give Bernie this one, it needs to be done.

 

 

 

 

 

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