Alone

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.

Edgar Allan Poe, 1809 – 1849

MR. (P)RESIDENT’S (F)UDGET

So Mr. (P)resident wants to build a wall across our southern border … costing an estimated $15 to $25 billion dollars. To pay for the wall, he will scratch $500 million for a new Coast Guard cutter.

You see, his Petulance wants his immigrants wet as his arithmetic goes awry.  So immigrants shall arrive by sea, he decrees, instead of crossing the Rio Grande — thus making it easier for them to row versus wade.

FROM METAPHOR TO METAPHYSICS

Let us take a pause from worldly preoccupations.  What title should I give this photo?  To call it a ‘Lotus Leaf’ is too profane.  For Egyptians, Hindus, and Buddhists, the lotus is the embodiment of the sacred.  Since the flower retracts each night and reopens at dawn, the lotus serves as a symbol for creation, death, and rebirth – for the journey of consciousness in the field of time.

Perhaps the title should suggest creation inside the water droplet. Any kid with a toy microscope and a nearby pond will tell you: Every droplet is a universe teeming with life.

In illo tempore.  A scarab beetle emerges from the mud of the Nile; a mighty wind sweeps over a primordial abyss; eons of time pass in the wink of an eye as Brahma sits atop a lotus blossom. Every beginning starts with a word, a dream, a vision, a thought.

Notice the debris inside the water droplet and the vague reflection of the photographer.  It reveals something about my relationship to the subject.  Heisenberg might approve of these concepts: Of observer as part of the observed system, of subjective explorations of the same phenomenon.  Thoughts radiate along vascular paths to the edges of space and time.

Perhaps a title can misrepresent an image.  Is my point one of certainty or doubt, of insight or incredulity?  Sometimes a title takes our speculative imagination beyond the temporal image.

Photo: © Jeffrey Berger

FEAR AND VICTIMHOOD IN A BOGUS POTUS AGE

In the opinion pages of a local newspaper, another letter writer fabricates this claim of victimhood:

“My fear is that if I wear my Make America Great Again hat in public I may be assaulted.  That is what I call ‘real’ fear.  True Trump supporters are generally a quiet, hard-working, taxpaying, respectful group of people.  We need a little more conversation and a little less confrontation,” she writes. Continue reading FEAR AND VICTIMHOOD IN A BOGUS POTUS AGE

THE ART OF WILLFUL SELF-DELUSION

Motivated reasoning and cognitive bias are terms used by psychosocial researchers to describe a tendency among people to filter information, turn off eyes and ears, and consider only the evidence they want to hear.

Everyday in our local newspaper, I read letters to the editor. Letters from hotheads. Letters from bigots who rationalize hatred even as they deny their bigotry.  Most remarkable is the inventiveness of people who go to extraordinary lengths to rationalize the irrational and engage in willful self-deception.

Fake news, bogus conspiracies, straw man arguments, exaggerated and embellished claims, errors of attribution, errors of reasoning, denial, projection … all are examples of cognitive bias.

Each week, I see examples of willful self-delusion in opinion letters and online discussions. One reader says: “You make me sick to think that you walk the streets and could be near me. You are probably one of the animals …”; a cognitively biased abreaction.

“The left absolutely hates Donald Trump. They hate him with every fiber of their being, every cell in their bodies, but they don’t precisely know why.”  But we do know why!  Do you see what we see?  Do you see Trump’s defects of character?  Do you see the bullying of a disabled man, a travel ban that handcuffs children, a deportation order that sends a hospitalized girl with a brain tumor to a detention center?  Partisan bias is cognitive bias when you fail to see the insanity and inhumanity.

Conservative commentator Kathleen Parker condemns his reckless rhetoric. Hothead Trump loyalists denounce Parker as a traitor.

President #45 bashes the press as “an enemy of the people.” Senator John McCain defends a free press as a constitutionally protected right.  Hothead Trump loyalists denounce McCain.

There will always be an angry rabble who cast a blind eye on gross misuses of power. Never dismiss a mob whose hunger for red meat is insatiable. If you fail to feed them, they will assail you as assuredly as flies drawn to carrion.

Galloping hissy fits, boorish misuses of words, ad hominem character assassinations, misquotes, harping, carping, nitpicking, accusations, fabrications, deceptions, insults, and angry outbursts — hardly a week goes by without uncouth examples of cognitive bias leaping off page.