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Welcome

NP Journal for experimenting with ideas, Copyright © 2011-2017 LJ Frank. All Rights Reserved. 

 

Narrative Paths Journal

“We think we know but have yet to discover.”  Thomas Aquinas

 

NP Journal for experimenting with ideas was initiated within the context of experiences and rooted in treks, voyages, studies and work. The access, integrative content and design of the journal are evolving with the goal of enhancing the reader’s experience. The views and opinions expressed in the Journal are those of the individual authors.

 

“Narrative Paths Journal is a literary magazine focusing on new philosophies and ideas.”  Uriél Dana

 

CONTENTS

About Us

Brief overview of  the vision and people who offer their insights and expertise. Includes a list of NP Journal Group & Contributors: editor, assistant editor, guest columnists, writers, poets and photographers.

Contact: L J Frank can be reached directly at narrative.paths@gmail.com

Announcements

Introductions and links to evolving ideas, philosophies, trends with both narrative and poetic reflections on diverse issues.

Art

Includes some of Frank’s works of abstract expressionism.  Several of his paintings have been donated to nonprofit organizations. Numerous works are on display in business and professional offices and private homes.

Guest Column

We welcome guest columnists. With over 900,000 visits from over 90 countries being a guest columnist offers global exposure for your thoughts. We review each article for content and writing quality offering suggestions if needed. We also supply links to your online sites. Contact information is listed under About Us.

The Miracle of Learning & the Seasons of Change by Sue DeGregorio-Rosen.

Inquiries

Philosophical approaches to various artistic, cultural, literary, political, religious, scientific and social matters. Individual and Collective Memory – a philosophical approach by L J Frank.

Interviews

Strives to offer insightful and thought-provoking observations of varying lengths in areas that are engagingly diverse and leaning towards the paradigmatic. The Interviewee has final approval over posting. Most recent: A Sexual Conscience, Interview with Vanessa de Largie, Australian Actress, Author, Sex Columnist, Journalist and Blogger.

NPJ Book Review

Books from the past to the present are reviewed that express the inquisitive and exploratory nature of NP Journal. All reviews are by L J Frank unless otherwise noted.

Publications 

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”  Lao Tzu, Daoist philosopher

Preview listing of L J Frank’s published books with links to retail availability.  Frank is also working on two books.

Now available: The Elusive Mistress of Thomas Paine.

Rhythms

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home — Japanese poet, Matsuo Bashō

Contrasting shapes of experiences, ideas, dreams and thoughts primarily in the form of poetry and essays. The words amusing, romantic, haunting, disquieting, nonlinear, obscure and existential are a few of the descriptors for these jottings. Most recent: Adjusting the rearview mirror by L J Frank

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Index

Links to archived Contributors, Announcements, Guest Column, Inquiries, Interviews, NPJ Book Review and Rhythms.

NPJ Briefing

The Briefing includes updates on Journal plans, usage, visitors by country and miscellaneous website news.

My Life and Times by Henry Miller, (1971) I’ve found the weekend a good time to read Henry Miller. Having read the Tropic of Capricorn and Tropic of Cancer at a younger age, along with Erica Jong on Henry Miller, The Devil at Large, I thought I had pretty good insight into this remarkable and brilliant author’s mind. I purchased this book at a small bookshop on a side street in Ann Arbor a few decades ago and it sat on the shelf for too long and unappreciated.

Miller has away of jolting the human conscience even, vanity aside, and especially during this age ,which may prove to be the final act of democracy, the continuing rise of resistance and anarchy or will the peoples suffer from oppression/depression. Miller knows depression & war, humility and humor and maintains an orderly office and desk, but finds within, “a raging chaos.”

In response to why he wrote the book when so much has already been said in his earlier biographical works, ”I am not sure I can give a convincing answer to the question, except to say that through conversation, or what the French call entretiens, one often approaches a subject or theme from a different angle. Stripped of literary pretensions or flourishes, the facts and events of one’s life emerge more starkly and thus, to many readers, more intelligibly and comprehensibly.”

In another notation for the person of thought and or emotion: “To the person who thinks with his head, life is a comedy. To those who think with their feelings, or work through their feelings, life is a tragedy.”

Miller reveals his bemusement of societal norms as in one example, he plays Ping Pong across from a naked woman; “no matter how important or glamorous my opponent may be I never let him or her distract me.”

 The author discusses his paintings and the creative process, how one stroke of the brush leads to another and correspondingly how one thought leads to another.

Miller’s writings are provocative, raw, symbolic, insightful, humorous, opinionated and passionate – an individual with a profound understanding for the ambiguity surrounding the nature of sexuality, politics, censorship and the word and the images words create.

This tabletop visual autobiography serves up samples of his humor and seriousness in writing, while simultaneously offering a glimpse into the inner workings of the author’s efficacious mind. The images and photos visualized words. From this writer’s perspective the work is a gem.

Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk about It) by Elizabeth Anderson (2017)

This is a book that’s been long overdue. Anderson offers a scholarly and thought-provoking study of how corporate America is a form of private government. She discusses how the average employee in the private sector acts as if the free market still existed. The author demonstrates that the free market is a myth with the research to back it up.

Since the industrial revolution employers have made the rules through dictatorial means – invasive policies and the paycheck (and the secrecy that surrounds it) to name just a couple of tactics and decisions about the employee’s professional and personal life. And, as an employee learns early on – you fall in line.

Anderson offers a historical context and delineates the role of race and gender in the workplace among other factors. Unions are anathema to numerous corporations and businesses. And, employers meanwhile want less federal, state and local governance to allow them even greater latitude and control over the lives of their employees both on and off the job.

“In the workplace, employees can be fired for their political speech, recreational activities, diet, and almost anything else employers care to govern,” including race, religion, gender (transgender), and personal agendas. Clothing, manners and other characteristics are not off limit to the employer. Privacy doesn’t exist nor does worker freedom. Employee activities are orchestrated and sold as being in the best interest of the worker and the success of the business.

Today the United States government is essentially an oligarchy backed by an authoritarian President and his cabinet made up of millionaires and billionaires. Less government is sought by much of corporate America, though perhaps not all. Government acts as a check and balance in normal times of a thriving democracy.

The solution? If democracy in some form continues to exist then finding better ways to allow employees freedom in expressing ideas, personal space and dress, input into the workings of the business, shared responsibility and opening the dialogue including approaches to improve on the job training while alleviating discrimination in all its forms. That’s part of the solution.  Communication is key. Is that possible in this age of technology, the omnipresent camera and increasing mistrust? The United States is in the midst of one of it’s most unsettling times since the American Revolution with powerful interests scrambling for greater power and greater wealth. The future?

Flashes of memories that stretch into the distance

on a two lane highway across the plains

driving with the windows partially open

in the warmth of a spring day,

a glance in the rearview mirror

looking at places that speed into the past,

hands grip the rich leather wrapped steering wheel

a bare wrist missing a watch –

forgotten in a hotel drawer

keeping time in the darkness

as the second-hand ticks away

of faded dreams never lived,

another look in the rear mirror

become moments worth of stare

eyes witness to a misplaced perception,

showers of sunlight pierce the clouds

the rain dissipates on the horizon

pools of oasis on the asphalt disappear,

and the edge of a smile emerges

adjusting the rearview mirror.

 

*Also, posted in Rhythms

Impeachment

The United States Constitution states in Article II, Section 4: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” *

*High Crimes and Misdemeanors refers to specific punishable offenses that apply to public officials, those who, “because of their official status, are under special obligations that ordinary persons are not under, and which could not be meaningfully applied or justly punished if committed by ordinary persons.”

Previous Presidents that endured impeachment proceedings:

In 1868 against President Andrew Johnson for his removal of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton ‘in violation of’ the Tenure of Office Act;

In 1974 implemented against President Richard M. Nixon for the Watergate cover up;

In 1998-99 implemented against President Bill J. Clinton for concealing an extramarital affair.

See: http://www.heritage.org/constitution/#!/articles/2/essays/100/standards-for-impeachment

Forbidden Knowledge, From Prometheus to Pornography by Roger Shattuck (1996) My perspective: Seeking moral clarity can be an unsettling journey. This interestingly written 1990’s study is an acquired taste. Who decides what is forbidden, on whose behalf and upon what authority? This is a provocative work though at times feels intellectually disjointed and on the inside (boxed in warning) states: “Parents and teachers should be aware that Chapter VII does not make appropriate reading for children and minors.” Hint: It’s about the Marquis de Sade. Said chapter is not as explicit as you might think based on the warning. Standards have changed. And yet that’s on some level part of the underlying warning of the author in my view. Shattuck explores the subject with selective moral energy to proffer his insights and in many instances brilliant points particularly from a literary eye though a bit disingenuous, as if somehow he had the inside track on morality. Still he must be considered.

As the tragedy of the human play unfolds – the real pornography is not in promiscuous sex but the interweave it has with violence as depicted in the media and on film. Violence sells. The challenge is the effect it has on the immature or childlike mind. Humans still operate with theologies that have yet to catch up with their technologies. This has long been a point of literary and sociological contention. Let the reader be aware.

The author asks whether knowledge brings more problem than solutions – over population to weapons of mass destruction we accumulate more knowledge but with fewer answers. His comments about Frankenstein and Faust engage the concept of scientific hubris. He writes about Faustian bargain and the Frankenstein monster and “the yearning to surmount the flux of time and to eternalize the moment.” And, we invent then, live ‘in anticipation’ of our inventions.

Shattuck delves into the far side of curiosity with an interest in language and how we use words. The work is filled with varied stories and perspectives from mythology including tales surrounding Prometheus and the meaning of existence. His search is for moral clarity. Context is significant when perusing this work.

I found this study to be a reference tool in deciphering various moral issues in literature, mythology, theology, science, pornography and the occult among others. Are there some things we should know and others that we should not? Morality is a road filled with the cobblestones and potholes of deception. The author is a moralist who makes use of literary references to define his position that one can gain knowledge but still refrain from exploiting it. Censorship is a slippery slope. Words can effectuate both insightful, supportive as well as abusive actions?

A number of readers today may take issue with this work and have done so while others have noted its brilliance and the depth of its understanding. It was sitting on my shelf for a long time. I find it to best used as a reference tool with a reminder of how much has changed in the past twenty years. This is a thought-provoking study of morality.

Vanessa de Largie hails from Australia and is an award-winning actress, author, prolific sex-columnist, freelance journalist and blogger. Her novels explore the dimensions of female sexuality. She has worked as an entertainer for over 20 years, engaged in film, theater, television, radio, voice over, compère, spoken word and photographic modelling. She currently resides in London where she is studying at The Actors Centre in London as a visiting international artist.

Vanessa de Largie’s writing focuses on feminism, fierce female sexuality and women’s issues. She has published four memoirs. Her columns, essays and feature articles are internationally published and have appeared in The Huffington Post, Maxim Magazine (monthly column), Penthouse Magazine, The Daily Telegraph, The Courier Mail, Kinkly, Rebelle Society, Cara Sutra, Thought Catalog, The Sydney Morning Herald, Milk Bar (Melbourne), The Mercury (Tasmania) and The Canberra Times among many others.

http://facebook.com/OfficialVanessadeLargiehttp:

//twitter.com/VanessadeLargiehttp:

//pinterest.com/VanessadeLargie

CV: http://www.vanessadelargie.net/cv.html

NP: You’re an enchanting, adventurous and sensuous soul that is both assertive and charismatic with an independent spirit my research notes suggest. Your columns in Maxim Magazine, The Huffington Post and Penthouse Magazine (to name just a few) are what might be described as those of ‘a street savvy public intellectual’ that combines the spiritual and sensual with a pragmatic, open-minded ‘way of seeing’ things. You don’t mince words and are a refreshing breath in your perception of the world around you. How would you describe your youth and young adult years and the process in which you shaped the narrative of your life? What was the effect of religion, culture and societal norms on you, if any?

de Largie: I was born to elderly parents who had already raised four sons.  My mother definitely didn’t plan to have a fifth child! Because of my parent’s age, I was given a wealth of freedom and support. My sexual self was present from ‘day dot’ or from an early age. I’ve felt sexually curious my entire life.  It’s how I connect with the outer world. My late father was Catholic and my late mother was Anglican-turned-Atheist.  My parents were liberated, so I don’t feel religion shaped my narrative as such. I’ve always been driven and have always known what I wanted to do with my life.

‘Self’ – individualism’ and ‘liberty’ are the things I value most. I feel uncomfortable with projected reality (or reality projected on me) and conventionalism. I’m always trying to find ways to escape them – fucking, acting and writing allow me to do this.

NP:  Where do you find your inspiration? Sexually? Intellectually? Artistically? Where are you at sexually as a woman, artistically as an actress and writing as a journalist?

de Largie:  Much of my inspiration comes from literature, art and pornography.  I’m gluttonous when it comes to these three passions.  It fills me up the same way a cock does.

Sexually: I’ve been saying I’m in my ‘sexual peak’ for the last decade.  I turned 40 recently and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just a horny feline.

Artistically: I’m in a very happy place right now. I’ve just moved from Australia to London and I’m currently studying at The Actors Centre as an international artist.

In 2011, I had a nervous breakdown. I’d been working as a professional actress for many years but the uncertainty, poverty and rejection was causing me to have crippling panic attacks. I stopped accepting acting work and started writing more as an alternate creative outlet.  Little did I know that I’d have more success with writing than I’d ever experienced as an actress on film or stage.  Though after five joyous years in isolation ‘working the word’, I now finally feel ready to return to acting again.

Writing: I’m in a very fortunate position right now.  I’m a monthly columnist for Maxim Magazine’s print edition and I pay my rent by writing columns for major publications. I don’t take any of this for granted.  I never intended to enter freelance journalism, it evolved organically and I’m so thankful it did.

NP: In the Myth of Monogamy the authors, Barash and Lipton write about how unusual monogamy is in the animal kingdom and that essentially a healthy female has greater sexual stamina than a healthy male with few exceptions. Are we approaching a stage where there’s an overdue need to redefine women’s roles in society as more women than men are breadwinners and wish to fulfill their sexual needs and rights?

de Largie: What a great question!  I don’t believe we are meant to be monogamous nor do I have any interest in settling into a monogamous relationship.  We are animals and conventions such as marriage put unnatural constraints and unwanted pressure on individuals.  I definitely think’ the need to evolve’ in regard to these issues is LONG overdue.

NP: Do you think there’s a basic male insecurity and fear of a sexually empowered woman? If so, do you see that changing?

de Largie: Hmm, perhaps there is in a number of males that are less educated and experienced and find that they are unable to openly articulate their circumstances or concerns. That said, I have found that males I have met to be incredibly accepting and non-judgmental when it comes to my work and me.

NP: What haven’t you experienced and explored that you would like to?

de Largie: My mind suggests that I’d probably enjoy participating in BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Submission, Masochism, etc.) to an intense level – be held captive and tied up in a house somewhere and fucked senseless by men and women repeatedly over a number of days in different orifices. But these kinds of fantasies are incredibly tricky to set up safely without harming anyone. It’s much easier acting through these fantasies in a film than it is in real life. That kind of “real life” experience can come with a price.

NP: How facile is it to dismiss sexual frankness/explicitness as pornography and yet find violence to humans as uncomplicated and shown regularly in film, television and the Internet – what we do to our bodies unnaturally to “beautify” them seems to be a form of abuse and more so the pornography of violence as expressed in war, weapons of minor and mass destruction, genocide, starvation and the assault on humanity? What is your view?

de Largie: Wow, this question is of enormous interest to me and is definitely something I think about to a substantial degree. My work is often dismissed as pornography rather than erotic literature because of the honest and explicit way I write. It saddens me that the art form of erotica and porn is viewed in a sex-negative way. As consumers we are saturated with violent media, advertising, video games and films. People are having fucking botulism injected into their faces, so they no longer emote or express. That’s more violent than pornography will ever be. Last year I wrote a column titled ‘I wanted Kim Kardashian To Die’.  I ended up being splashed across the pages of The Washington Times, Cosmopolitan Magazine (US) and The Guardian because my article was taken ‘literally’ and processed ’emotionally’. The article wasn’t about Kardashian.  The article was about this bullshit-era we’re currently living in where a reality TV star is President of the United States, a person like Kim Kardashian is a ‘God’ and injecting a fatal illness into our frown lines is considered normal.

Today: given my experience, studies and evolving philosophy I’m beginning to think most of the world’s population is sexually oppressed and they probably don’t even know it! Unfortunate!

Human rubble in scattered piles

a stretched cord twisted on the ground

an empty bloody womb lies formless

a small arm alone on the soil like a beggar seeking alms

nearby a human baby’s head is turned

she stares blankly towards the missing limb,

is it but another wag the dog’s “tale”

from a collage of heated skirmishes?

 

A gray-bearded old man

with glaucoma eyes and a toothless grin

sees shadows of passersby

his words no longer recognizable,

and miles away in a perpendicular city

a model poses against a backdrop of shimmering light at dusk

only to return to a bejeweled loft of pleasure,

a business couple sit in a coffee shop sipping a latte

entertaining their values,

and students chew their tongues while

politicians gather to discuss their interests and costs,

international bankers count their money

through the weapons exchange of wealth,

and the communities of military and intelligence play

a historical board game of chess.

 

In a separate place the furrowed brows of a man

who prefers to golf

is caught in an inexplicable moment’s worth of pondering

the measure of a man is in the distance,

before a key is tapped

and a call is made, behold the “truth”

the most intimate and familiar sound to a child’s ear

My mother

is forever lost.

 

In the form of a metal phallus

shrapnel semen, nurture-less

a silent, tragic cry echoes in the mind.

An allegory from the book of Genesis

wasn’t Eve the maternal metaphor of all

that ultimate expression of meanings –

fertile, childbearing, origin, source, compassion, love, smile?

 

To be the Mother of All is futile for the metallic penis

for to kill is antonymic that leaves no descendants

except ideas should a woman and a man survive,

the bodily remains of madness, folly, arrogance and vanity

do leave their traces, but will there be a next time?

 

*Also, posted in Rhythms

The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution, Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic by Ganesh Sitaraman (2017)

Sitaraman makes a good case that the number one threat to the America’s constitutional government is the collapse of the middle class. He argues that unlike warfare constitutions that the U.S. Constitution was shaped and designed by relative economic equality – a strong middle class, no extreme wealth or poverty, economic opportunity and government checks and balances. And he states that without a functional middle class the republic will fall apart and cease to exist.

The American democracy existence depends on the will of the people and the consent of the governed. And, if the economic elites control the government then they will look out for their own interests. The founders appreciated the nature of what they were experimenting with and the author looks at the history of constitutions and the challenges the new country faced. Though the men that signed the constitution were property owners they understood, as the Federalist papers point out, the need for democratic participation and “the avoidance of” extremes.

The author quotes John Adams – “Is there such a rage for Profit and Commerce” that we no longer have “public virtue enough to support the Republic”? He focuses on the fact that economic inequality is rising, the middle class is collapsing and power is being concentrated in the hands of the few. The founders he argues understood that most nations floundered in an inevitable inequality and death of the middle class disintegrates and that is why they crafted the constitution in the form that they did. Unfortunately, the United States today has witnessed exactly what a number of founders feared might happen.

Sitaraman offers a thought-provoking perspective and one wonders whether the Republic indeed will survive given the fact that the economic elite control the purse strings and political directions of the United States. The current direction of the nation offers little hope for democracy as it has clothed itself in a plutocracy.

When one looks at the increasing number of college graduates that are unemployed or working in a position below their qualifications and barely surviving on their minimum wages and salaries then the future looks ominous except for those wealthiest that appear to be clueless or apathetic at best to the middle class plight.

Phenomena: The Secret History of the U.S. Government’s Investigations into Extrasensory Perception and Psychokinesis by Anne Jacobsen (2017)

Jacobsen has written some excellent investigative works, including last year’s The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top-Secret Military Research Agency now offers in her most recent book, Phenomena, a study about overlapping nature of top-secret work – scientists, psychics, the Pentagon and quantum entanglement.

My take: The story essentially begins post WWII and the government’s fascination in anomalous mental phenomena, extrasensory perception (ESP), psychokinesis (PK), map dowsing and in effect, a variety of divination methods. Is there anything new to the author’s findings? The answer is yes and no depending on the knowledge of the reader. This study appears nonlinear at times but we are forced to open an intellectual door. Doubt is healthy.

Historians in general attempt to look at, review, research, discover, uncover or expose, compare and apply various historical / scientific methods to affirm, question or disprove while stimulating people’s curiosity look further. Context is everything.

For myself with an interest in the government’s “Project Star Gate” program I was drawn to this work. The idea behind the program was in essence how the military sought to harness psychic phenomena for spying and military use. It’s about control…whether physical, emotional and or mental. Star Gate wasn’t the only project but a deeply fascinating one. The author covers a lot of ground between that project and others.

Though there are differing opinions about how selective the author was in her efforts, she has amassed a great amount of information while trying to connect the dots between government projects. For the reader unfamiliar with the scientific experiments of the government in psychic phenomena the author opens the door for further research and those curious about the inner workings of a formerly classified agency of the government while causing one to wonder “what is it that do I not know that I would like to or should know for my own intellectual or mental well – being?” This is a tantalizing study in how far human agencies (government-military-corporate) will go in collecting information and using that information to channel ideas and thinking. The military-industrial complex is alive and well. This book opens a gate to one arena among many, of what humans are willing to do to mitigate human generated insecurity.

We only have knowledge of that which we have access to, study and experience… 

Image for Writings

Credit: Jean Philippe-Cypres, photographer

To be human requires the ability to remember with empathy – it’s the mental tissues (pages) and cells in our brain that allows us to observe, record and catalogue while offering context to the reality and perceptions of one’s existence – a knowledge and experience of our yesterdays. Without that memory we lack knowledge about our self and relationship to others and access to a higher conscious. And without a memory life can be more brutish than it is with one. Memory is the basis of our humanity and allows a provocative and substantial context for love and compassion.

To be beneficial memory also requires us to be honest with those events and people we experience everyday. To be dishonest with our memory is to distort our humanity and to corrupt our world with a form of dementia and artificially induced Alzheimer’s. To lose one’s memory we become a danger to our self in that we are at a loss. The distortion and loss of a collective memory through misinformation or disinformation leads us toward an unforgiving path.

Even the mentally disabled child that recognizes her mother’s voice is the effect of a tissue or page of memory, no matter how brief the amount of data stored. That memory is the basis of the child’s humanity and in effect of all humanity. Our memory is a metaphysical link to what we call a state of higher consciousness. And that higher consciousness arrives in many forms and remains within us as long as our memory holds.

Our memories are built on interpreting the world around us for greater understanding. The more honest we are with our own memories the greater value in our collective memory. That collective memory aids us in realizing our connection with the universe beyond the physical stuff and power we accumulate. And, the competition for the physical is an empty promise. Physical wealth and power is never enough and disturbs the memory of compassion to others. To create a world of “haves” and “have nots” is to distort history and never ends in good will to our neighbors while our collective memory is lost in a wilderness of self-deception.

The struggle to exist in a landscape of unfairness is alleviated by our memory. It’s what helps us walk through the darkest shadows in life. Our physical eyes are lens while the brain photographs what is being viewed and provides vision while our memory offers us insight into who and what we are and see.

The ticking second-hand on a watch is a misleading indicator of the enigmatic caduceus* of time and memory. In the midst of life’s timeless absurdities, a memory with empathy causes us to be human and allows us to smile even when in pain. Even the saddest of memories is the paradox of fondness for the compassion we are capable of as a human species. With memory exists a choice.

*a symbolic staff of a messenger

Homo Deus, A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari (2017)  My take: Homo Deus or “Man of God” is a studied and knowledgeable work; as a humanist and existentialist I find myself at intellectual odds with the author’s description of classical liberal, humanism and free will. It’s a bit too stereotypical. That said, Harari is articulate and insightful in his historical quest and subsequent questions about the future.

Like his previous work, Sapiens, the author uses broad historical strokes to cover tens of thousands of years of human history. The query he poses is about the ultimate worth of human life is fascinating. “Sapiens evolved in the African savannah tens of thousands of years ago and their algorithms are just not built to handle the twenty-first century.”

The way we process data and the world around may not be genetically built into each of us. At what point will humans be genetically engineered with accompanying micro-chips to better process the downstream effects of the technologies they have created?

Humans are confronted with the problems of climate change, nuclear warfare, disease, uncontrolled bacteria and much more, all the while pursuing “the serious bid for immortality.”

Harari builds up to the challenges that face the human race:

– Science is converging and organisms are algorithms and life is data processing;

– Intelligence is decoupling from the conscious;

– Non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms may soon know us better than ourselves.

These challenges raise the following questions:

– Are organisms really just algorithms and life really just data processing?

– What’s more important – intelligence or consciousness?

– What will happen to security, politics and daily life when non-conscious organisms but highly intelligent algorithms know better than we know ourselves?

Whether you agree with him or not Harari is a thinker that provokes the reader to delve below the surface even when he generalizes.

Upon further consideration, one might also be disposed to ask, how much longer will “human” history exist? How will we define “human” and at what point will a new definition emerge?

Image for Writings

Credit: Jean Philippe-Cypres, photographer

Conflict – we have arrived at a juncture where breaking news is an anticipated breath. Language at times is a propaganda jungle. Circumstantial – a photo of a dead child washed up on a distant shore, a crowd of people after being struck by a truck, the limbs of a human being lying on a stretch of pavement after a bomb, the raised hands of a man saying he is the final authority, the payment through a blue blood’s hands for a judge to sit on a Supreme Court, the money exchanged in the darkness for distribution control of a drug, the back channels of prison profit, the corporate mischief in the shifting arenas of insurance, medicine, food, banking, policing, military and other less visible machinations. And conflict is also can be found in listening to an individual who is a mistress to a Wall Street executive and wondering how she will maneuver through an unsettling obstacle course and not disappear one night.

There are cyclical genocides, wars, bloody battles, crippling diseases and mass starvation, floods, fires, bombs and vehicle crashes, the list is endless with no priorities. We might turn our attention away as a child might cover his or her eyes.

Random occurs and affects our life on some level even when ignored or across the country or on the other side of the globe from it. Our fate is not in our hands this side of suicide or deciding to join a cause in an arena of violence. No one knows with certainty when our last breath will be taken.

Conflict is an opportunity to make money by those selling a product with conflict purposefully generated for the sake of more coins in the coffer or transfer of property, including being laid to rest. Conflict is money as many a politician or executive or judge may attest to, for the sake of whatever and whomever, as well as his or her own personal empowerment and pocketbook. International banks, countries and independent arms dealers have grown extremely rich through conflict with arms deals among other associated products being respectfully profitable.

With little effort one can find hundreds of opportunities to access conflict on the Internet, television, radio or hard print or just listening day-to-day conversations about work and home life or shopping for groceries or medicine while the cost of life rises. Someone is always making money off of a conflict. It appears in diverse forms from fake news to actual events on a city street or between political actors and their funders or a senior being kicked out of his or her home or the veteran that returned from battle and found himself living under a bridge.

Conflict is a natural aspect of life and at times is interlaced with the humane attribute of compassion that one might encounter among strangers and loved ones. Though one must at times step back to recognize it – a kind gesture that begins in the simplest of forms. It’s the courtesy of recognizing you as a human being by another and not to be exploited and degraded by an act of inhumanity.

Stack Overflow

The Hidden Power of Stack Overflow: How a Website You’ve Never Heard of Is Holding the Web Together

By

Photo: Getty ImagesImage

Let’s say you’re relatively new to coding. Maybe you’re studying it in college, or you’ve just started at an entry-level position after attending a five-week coding boot camp. You’re writing a function in C or Python or Javascript or whatever language you prefer. For some reason, the code isn’t compiling or it hits a snag at line 281 and the terminal outputs some arcane gibberish like “AttributeError: ‘foo’ object has no attribute ‘bar’.”

So what do you do next? You could double-check and see if you missed adding a semicolon at the end of a line. You could perform the classic occult coding ritual of running the script a few more times and hoping that it’ll just work. You could give up entirely and pour yourself a drink.

Or maybe you do what is now the standard troubleshooting method across the profession: You paste the error message into Google and search for it, crossing your fingers in hopes that a website called “Stack Overflow” will come up in the results.

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Erotic Art of the East by Philip Rawson (1968) Primitive and otherwise ancient cultures, not being as technology diverse as today (read 1960’s) and even more so in the 21st century, relied on a more culturally direct and poignant translation of the sensual in life.

In these explicit photos of sculpture and paintings from Ancient India, China and Japan among others is an appreciation for love for the sake of love, pleasure for the sake of pleasure and the art of sexual fulfillment within the context of cultures that seemed ahead of their time (or our time) in some respects. It was not pornography. The term had yet to be invented. Some of the art depicts consensual sexual deviation as a private ceremony for the sake of banishing anxiousness.

This work explores an array of erotic art and it’s cultural meaning and the context in which the art was produced. One example is in which Rawson explores the world of the erotic through art – an entire temple such as the Black Pagoda with its hundreds of erotic sculptures (Orissa, India) is dedicated to love. Yet the temple was left uncompleted.

As much as this work is erotic and explicit, it’s highly symbolic. Even Taoism possesses a cryptic sexual symbolism through its language. The author explores Hindu and Buddhist influences among others with thoughtfulness. Whether it was polygamy or polyandry or homosexuality or other sexual pleasure society didn’t bother to condemn or voice displeasure if it didn’t have an effect on property.

The spiritual and physical in life are woven together as the erotic, sensual and sensuous played an active role in beliefs of a higher consciousness – only to change when the dogmas of a faith or a belief and the subsequent politics focused towards the control of people’s behavior to conform to one’s own position of power and finance do we see changes.

Reason for Being, A Meditation on Ecclesiastes by Jacques Ellul (1990) When I first read Ellul’s work, I felt as an existentialist I was in an existential conversation about the meaning of life rather than being engaged in the plethora of “touchy feely” as well as sensitive and “solemn” interpretations from various theological perspectives.

I reread this book among others every so often as I gain something each time I examine it from a philosophical view. In Ellul’s case, he was an attorney and sociologist by training and emerged as a significant 20th century philosopher that had spent decades ruminating about the meaning of Ecclesiastes.

The author of Ecclesiastes is identified as Qohelet and that all is vanity* in life. Ellul quotes the French author, George Bernanos who wrote: “In order to be prepared to hope in what does not deceive, we must first lose hope in everything that deceives.” Ellul offers an intriguing and at times a delicate but disarming interpretation of Ecclesiastes.

Ellul notes that the author of Ecclesiastes devotes much focus on money and work. He quotes Qohelet, “I turned to all the works my hands had made and toward the work I had done to make them and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind, and there is no profit under the sun.” Ellul sees the author of Ecclesiastes viewing work having value that must be deeper than money and power.

Yet, no matter what course one takes in life all is vanity. “Ideologies, idealism and utopias” turn humans away from the spiritual and instead offer us fleeting material objects. At the same time these ideals and utopias produce the vanities to be found in the money we make, the work we perform and the politics we play and so forth. “What profit is there for a person in all his work which he does under the sun?” There is none, especially in terms of the material.

For Jacques Ellul to understand Ecclesiastes one must begin perhaps with the “fear of God” while realizing that all wisdom and knowledge disturbs the human spirit and resolve. “I applied my heart to understanding wisdom and to understanding madness and folly, and I knew this also is a pursuit of wind.” Ellul uncovers the ambiguities of this work and leaves us with more.

Numerous works, as noted, have been written about Ecclesiastes. Ellul’s meditation is provocative as he addresses the brutal, heartless nature of human existence and asks why. To what end? He looks at the book’s structure and content and offers his read on it. This is not necessarily a brightly optimistic meditation as some claim though it is quite thoughtful and offers insight to Ellul’s mind – he suggests that there is a value in our relationships and our work that transcend the material world and moves from an ontological to an existential approach and reflection. Paradox is one of the words used to describe the nature of the writings at times.

Reason for Being is an intellectually stimulating read. The author’s opinions remain relevant in a world that appears to hang by an existential thread. I will add that the author sees a glimmer of “hope.” Ecclesiastes is a read that offers multiple meanings depending on the filters of one’s experience and knowledge.

* In the Hebrew text of the Tanakh, vanity is translated as futility or emptiness.

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