Serious Aphorisms Wrapped in Silliness


Well today I’ve got this deadline for my Contemplations blog. So when I got up this morning, I thought I had to come up with some seemingly in-depth thought fairly quickly. Such a thought sounds, not only like a paradox, but also like an outright metaphysical contradiction. Given that I don’t want to fall into the black hole of such a contradiction, I’m coming up with some serious aphorisms wrapped in gaiety. Maybe they’ll work; maybe they will not. But here goes.

Monday .  .  . Monday .  .  . Not really. Over the years, I’ve actually come to embrace the notion that Monday is indeed nothing more than a state of mind. Many of us can most likely relate to school days and work weeks over the years where we began every Monday looking forward to Friday. I’m to the point now where I don’t care to wish the days to pass by. They’re doing that quickly enough as it is. Someone told one time that in his later life, he got to Friday looking back to Monday because he didn’t like the way his time was slipping away. At sixty-nine years old, I like neither the sound nor the feel to such a declaration.

Bob Dylan once wrote, you gotta serve somebody. I think that’s true, but not in the way that most people think. The  virtue signaling of the day is wearing thin for most people. Dylan is not a virtue signaler. A sense of life transformed into a conscious philosophy is hard work. Most of us probably rather avoid what it takes to make such a transformation. If you gotta serve somebody, it’s a terrible thing to be serving that of which you’re unaware.

Outlook for the week includes, reading, writing, but no ‘rithmetic, though I wouldn’t mind boning up on some geometry, algebra, and trig just for the hell of it because I used to do well in those areas. And for some odd reason, I actually enjoyed those subjects. When I ran headlong into derivative and integral calculus, however, it was like hitting the proverbial wall in a Ferrari, wide open, petal to the metal, and no seatbelt. I think it was more simply that I didn’t possess good study habits at the time I enrolled in those subjects, which in turn led to a disastrous conclusion that followed me through life for several years. If I’m to do something worthwhile, I thought, then it must come natural to me. Substitute for the word natural the word easy. You can guess the ramifications of such a belief when engaging difficult tasks in life.

I just finished a delicious cup of coffee to open up Monday morning and the week ahead. I have come to believe that caffeine is indeed the elixir of life. Whatever it was that ancient cultures deemed as the fountain of youth, Shangri-La, empyrean, nirvana, or utopia, well-brewed coffee had to figure into such experiences as a major factor. Not only does the magnificent taste send you up into the O-zones, the smell alone can transport you into an altered state. The neuronal effect remains ineffable.

What was I writing about? Oh yeah, serious aphorisms.

Speaking of neuronal effects, recently I read a book by Sam Harris, a well-known neuroscientist and philosopher, where he discusses the scientific fact that we have no free will, but given the psychological fact that we’re seemingly always making decisions and choices, we might as well act and believe as if we do possess free will. I couldn’t help but wonder which particular neurons led him to conclude, which means a choice among alternatives, that he nor anyone else possesses free will. Calvinists would ecstatically agree with Harris, other than he’s an avid atheist. I tried to ferret out how he chose to write, or came by writing, the book in the first place. And then I wondered about the motivation to persuade people that truly they do not possess the powers of choice. If other people’s neurons determined that they do possess free will, does that mean they would be right? I also wondered how one comes to know which neurons manage all the others and tells everyone that they need to give up on the notion of free will. My neurons on coffee appear to be completely different than without the wonderful elixir. Does that mean I’m determined by my neurons or by caffeine? And then I speculated on the notion about writing a book telling people that if they would choose to read the book, then they would conclude – choose to believe – that they don’t possess free will. What if they choose not to read the book? Or better yet, their neurons determine that they don’t read the book, or anything else about free will? What if they read a book that persuades them that they do have free will? Does any of this make any sense whatsoever?

Sam Harris is a brilliant neuroscientist and philosopher, and an excellent writer as well. I wouldn’t want to debate him on these issues. The book, Free Will, is a worthwhile read as well as his other works. His books, The End of Faith and Open Letter to a Christian Nation are well worth a critical read and inquiry.

In the news today, Ezekiel Elliot of the Dallas Cowboys has been suspended for six games for allegedly committing, what most people would call, thuggish activities. I don’t know the facts, so I don’t care to comment one way or another as to the veracity of the charges. He’s one individual among many of numerous cases where professional players across the sports world have been suspended, fined, arraigned, or sent to jail. I don’t want to make the common logical error of over-generalization when speaking about professional sports. Personally, however, I will own the fact that I’ve grown tired of the entire hype around college and professional sports. It’s taken much too seriously. There was a time that I too took it much too seriously. Every time my team lost, I would descend into the kind of depression that wreaks of the netherworld of darkness, Goth, and the walking dead. It would take me several days to climb out of the hole and see daylight again. Somewhere along the line my body told me enough. Thank heavens! No telling where I would be if determined by the state of those neurons.

All our hype over sports translates as well to other forms of entertainment. Movies, TV, big stars, red carpet photo ops, and all the paraphernalia that goes with having reached that magic moment in getting to a place called there. Only a few people are there. The rest of us applaud in a mad stupor, believing secretly that one day we too could be there. 

On just about any given afternoon, I’d rather read a good book or listen to some Jazz rather spend three hours or longer imbibing in mass media, NFL or otherwise. NFL Commish Roger Goodell publicly displayed his remorse at the ratings of NFL games plummeting over the last couple of years. He might as well look at Network Television all together. With Hulu, streaming, Netflix, and all the other ways to obtain personally specified entertainment, no one wants to be held captive by the major Networks. Who could blame them? Isn’t free market technology wonderful? It gives people choices – or more determinations from the neurons. Whatever the case, more bandwidth of experiences can lead to a better afternoon for many individuals.  And guess what? They’re taking it on. Yet mass media is here, appears to be here to stay, so we might as well use it to our advantage, even if it’s using it to block ourselves from that barrage of inanities that are thrown at us on a daily basis. Besides, I would rather choose my own inanities.

News, news anchors, and public information – does anyone trust these clowns these days?

Back to coffee. I just finished my second cup, and the week is looking up. I would go for an effect on the entire month, but I know there’s a point of diminishing returns. Too much caffeine gets those Sam Harris neurons firing and writhing like worms on a fish hook. At least at this very second, that’s what some neuron, according to Harris, had determined that I believe and write on this page.

H.L. Mencken – There is no record in human history of a happy philosopher. First, if that’s true, it says something as much about the field of philosophy as it does about any individual  philosopher. Second, I can understand why, if those who enter the field of philosophy are in search for the perfect system. Human beings tend to get in the way of such goals. It can be a downer every time you talk to someone else who thinks for himself. One gets a picture of poor philosophers drinking their Scotch after a hard day’s critical inquiry, seeking to come to grips with how no one truly listens to them, understands them, or even cares what they have to say. On the other hand, Nietzsche laughed. And Camus told us that we must imagine Sisyphus as happy.

Politics – no comment

Albert Jay Nock – Live superfluously. Now that’s an idea worth searching out.

Frank Chodorov – Economics is not politics. Now THERE’S an idea worth living out.

Bitcoin – Should I invest in Bitcoin, particularly given the way the dollar has been ripped seemingly screaming bloody murder from it gold standard? One would hope it’s a last resort. But who knows when resort reaches its last leg?

I’m here to tell you that these are serious aphorisms within the framework of silliness. I questioned whether or not I should write a Contemplations blog draped in such a mindset. After all, this Website is devoted to professional counseling and critical inquiry. I’m not sure that if some prospective clients read these words, they wouldn’t run the other way rather than contact me for an appointment. I am certain that I wouldn’t blame them. I am on the fringe in a lot of ways, and it’s fun dancing out there. Did I say that Nietzsche laughed? He did.

Alas, it’s too easy to take even serious matters too seriously. Give yourself a break. You’re not the only one who hasn’t designed the perfect system. You’re not the only one who for years wished your weekdays away for Friday. You’re not the only one looking back to Monday from Friday to slow that train down. Is it true that you gotta serve somebody as Dylan proffered? Probably. If you don’t like Dylan’s question and his answer, then talk with him about it. If you find yourself taking too many matters too seriously, then .  .  .

Drink some coffee.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/August 14th, 2017