14 Apr 2011

Post 282: Being a bit Philosophical

Since as far back as I can remember, ie since I have been a conscious creature, I have always been engaged in trying to do the right thing, for my friends and family, for the greater good and for myself, probably in that order. This metaphysical thinking, this existential quandering has been brought about by going to an intelligence squared lecture on Monday given by modern Philospher and author Sam Harris, I'll be honest I hadn't heard of him either, but the evening was the suggestion of Olly, the husband of a good friend of mine from college (the lovely Gina) and I don't go in for nearly enough mental stimulation these days and he thought I might be game for this. He was right. Neither of us are in the least bit pretentious (at least I don't think I am, Olly certainly isn't) so off we set for Kensington town hall. I think the evening was about 'if you're trying to do the right thing, how do you know what the right thing is?', a big theme in my life right now. The good thing was that it wasn't just a straight science v religion head to head, sure, there was plenty of religion bashing as there quite rightly should be but most of it was about how do you get from the world of facts to the world of values? In other words who says what's right and what's wrong? potato,potaato, lets call the whole thing off etc! Well I have a fairly simple theory of my own which avoids most of the boredom, confusion and chin-scatching of most philosophical discourse, it's simply called 'don't be a dick', now this might not appear very objective but I can guarantee each one of us knows deep down if we're being a dick, what upsets me is when I behave like a dick and can't help it because of my stroke, it's like not being able to stop screaming in pain, because you're in agony and people get fed up with you making a racket. This may all sound too simplistic to some but ask yourself how different is it from the governments new initiative on being nice, to make Britain a nicer country! I've even got regional variations in my initiative – 'don't be a knobhead' if you're from the North, 'don't be a twat' if you're from London and 'don't be a prick' if you're from Swindon, I haven't assigned a lot of the nation, e.g. Scotland or Scunthorpe – that is a pleasure best left for a rainy day. I am keen to avoid the label of being judgemental because as a wheelchair user I hate being judged and it seems that able bodied people hate it just as much, so hopefully a self regulating system like this will in theory help. But self regulation is what led to the banking crisis isn't it? So there are gaps in my 'back of a fag packet' theory? 'surprise, bloody surprise' – also, what happens to the mentally ill, who already struggle with the concept of right and wrong? They survive imperfectly already dependent on the support of people who care about them – it is these people who teach them about right and wrong and own their morals. Long have I been told that I can only find happiness myself. Given that I've achieved happiness in the past and fleetingly in my post stroke days through and with someone else's happiness, I think this advice is nonsense. I'm not na├»ve enough to think it will be easy. It'll take a phenomenal lady, but (I think) I've still got plenty to offer whether it be in the trouser, grey matter or security department.
Anyway, I digress -Sam Harris is clearly a clever man, who thinks a lot about the interconnectedness of everything. These are big questions that bore the sh*t out of most of us so I'm not going to go on about it, it's just interesting to ask them sometimes, that's when we realize how insignificant we are. As Aussie comedian Tim Minchin puts it
' Isn’t this enough?
Just this world?
Just this beautiful, complex
Wonderfully unfathomable world?
How does it so fail to hold our attention
That we have to diminish it with the invention
Of cheap, man-made Myths and Monsters?
If you’re so into Shakespeare
Lend me your ear:
“To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw perfume on the violet… is just f*cking silly”
Or something like that.
Or what about Satchmo?!
I see trees of Green,
Red roses too,
And fine, if you wish to
Glorify Krishna and Vishnu
In a post-colonial, condescending
Bottled-up and labeled kind of way
That’s ok.
But here’s what gives me a hard-on:
I am a tiny, insignificant, ignorant lump of carbon.
I have one life, and it is short
And unimportant…
But thanks to recent scientific advances
I get to live twice as long as my great great great great uncles and auntses.
Twice as long to live this life of mine
Twice as long to love this wife of mine
Twice as many years of friends and wine
Of sharing curries and getting sh*tty
With good-looking hippies
With fairies on their spines
And butterflies on their titties. '
And if perchance I have offended
Think but this and all is mended:
We’d as well be 10 minutes back in time,
For all the chance you’ll change your mind.
One of my favourite Minchin rants that. Here it is in its entirety
To try and lighten this rather serious post, some evidence of why being a cat looks great. My favourite of my 3, Ham relaxing on my bed earlier - she is great

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