The Ecphorizer

Thoughts on a Philosophy Course
Ruth G. Gates

Issue #32 (April 1984)

For those of you who took basket weaving, here's what you missed

We seem to have concentrated, this quarter, on a study of problems of the "I," a sort of core self, center, the deepest, ultimate core of being. There has been an emphasis on Fear/Desire as being the basic problem hindering full development of that center or core "I"

We need to identify our humanness, we need a definition of humanity.

These two have appeared to be two sides of the same coin.

[quoteright]I have gotten the impression that the solution is to extinguish Desire, thus losing Fear. Learn to desire nothing, just "go with the flow" of the hour or the day.

To me, this seems to preclude any planning, to preclude any effort to accomplish anything (in which case I ought not even take this course), to preclude any effort toward individual expression of self in any way, via art, music, literature, mathematica, athletics or whatever. If such an aim is to be consistently carried out, it presents a dismal picture.

Without a stubborn and insistent desire to live, the infant would starve or otherwise die, failing to make known its needs. Without that first insistent, absolute desire to live, there would be no life. And then, without the constant desire for more, more abundance, more exuberance, more pleasure, more expression, there would be nothing more than bare existence. No great museums of art and antiquity, no beautiful Greek sculptures, no Mona Lisa or Blue Boy, indeed no great art, or art of any kind, no marvelous Beethoven, Handel, Mozart, Wagner, no Taj Mahal, no Greek Acropolis, no Egyptian pyramids, no great bridges or dams, no Rockefeller building or World Trade Towers or cathedrals, no Eiffel Tower, no great Chinese Wall, no hope, no faith! Just imagine such a world!

Should we really submit to such self-imposed limitations and turn our backs on our great potentials? We are finer than we recognize, we humans, for we have created, with all our pains and hurts and evils and weaknesses, much powerful beauty and strength in our world. And we are worth more, much more.


We said, in late October I think, that the Universe could be none other than what it is to "Me/I," with this qualifier, "Only commensurate with that creature whose creation it is." But if the Universe is to be my "I" creation, how then can it be "commensurate with that other creature whose creation it is? I am part of that Universe and if it is my "I" creation, it is NOT a creation of that creature but IS that creature expressing livingness of which I am a part of the whole oneness. I am Godlike-God-expressing more and more of Universal potential as my Center; my core, my "I" discovers more and more of that potential. In the process that "creature" constantly expresses more "livingness," becomes more and more concentratedly Itself, of which I become more and more concentratedly a part. I need a vision to show - my words can't quite say what I mean.


We worried about Autonomy. But if, as above, the creator and the created are one and the same, there can be nothing less than Autonomy. We have only to recognize that and demand it, short, of course, of running all the red lights in a crowded city. That becomes arrogance.


We found some semantic needs in our discussions. We need to identify our humanness, we need a definition of humanity. What we now have as definition separates us from animals and from mineral matter, but we need a way to define ourselves vis-a-vis Spirit, God, Itself, Origin, First Cause, etc. Because of our felt oneness with all, I don't think it can be done too deeply, but as semantics, as a way of speaking, perhaps something satisfactory can be found.

We also need a consensus on what we mean when we use the words Me, I, Self, Ego, Soul, Person, Personality. Are these all words for roughly the same thing? Or are some of them duplicative, redundant? Are some of them words that cover the outward portion of the basic "I," the part that is ongoingly being shaped by environment and learning? What do we mean when we use any of these words? How deep can we get into ourselves with them?


We said, or some of us did, that Death simply could not be talked about, that it can be comprehended only as Event, Concept, Experience, and since we all, by definition, lack that Experience, the other points have little meaning. Just in passing, maybe we do not lack that Experience, but that is a dead-end concept here. I don't see how we can discuss ourselves and our problems, either practically or philosophically, without discussing Death. But here again we need a better word. Death means absolute finish, end, total non-existence, erasure, disappearance from everywhere. But physics tells us that nothing in our Universe is ever lost. So that even "death" of a flower or a dog or a tree or an apple or a mouse or a spider is inaccurate. It only changes form, from one complexity to basic elements to a similar or different complexity. From liquid to solid or solid to liquid, from gas to solid or from a solid to liquid to vapor, from ice to steam, from matter to energy.

At that time which we usually call Death and I want to call Transcendence, even the body is not destroyed. It only reverts back to the basic elements of which it is made. Nothing is ever lost. (How can Creation/Creator lose itself?) Bone simply breaks down into calcium, phosphorous, potassium and whatever other elements are in it, even if that bone is cremated, for the basic elements are still there. How surely more durable then must be Soul/I/Self/Person, we think.


Incidentally, since matter converts to energy, could not the reverse be true? Should we some day be able to create various basic elements out of pure energy? How much more Godlike could we ever become than that? Already our bodies know how to take the matter that is food and convert it to that energy with which we live and move and have our beings.  I think we already know how to do the reverse and create - planets? Suns? Moons? We just don't know yet that we know. We haven't learned how to retrieve that skill from our bank of knowledge of all there is to know.


Matter and energy bring me to the subject of duality, one that gave us some trouble this quarter. Duality - Body/Soul, Matter/Mind, Real/Ideal. We live a troublesome dual response to our daily lives because we know our bodies decay following death, like meat, and we hope our souls don't. Yet we also feel, insistently and almost instinctively, a total oneness with all, belying that duality that is so evident to our physical senses. We even almost enshrined the concept of duality that we want so much to deny, when we named Fear/Desire as the basic problem against full potential of the "I." And we nearly, though not totally, decided that we could solve that problem if we could stop our Desires, thus killing our Fears. Duality - such a simple solution - and so restrictive.

Now we come back full circle to my opening paragraphs. I'd like to suggest that we not dump our Desires. For we have all of Eternity at our disposal, an endlessness of Time, in which we are now living, in which the "I" is striving more and more to express full livingness, full potential, full creativity, full autonomy. Big as they seem at present, even tragic and sometimes horrible and totally evil, the little setbacks we meet this hour or day or year, or generation, are ephemeral, evanescent against that backdrop of Endlessness. If we could know and remember that, we could dump those Fears instead and free our full potentials.


That poetic notion of "the music of the spheres" is echoed now in science by nuclear physicists who, amazed, have heard music voiced by the atoms with which they work. Could those atoms be "I, being" too?

Having just completed a philosophy course, Ruth Gates decided to let us in on what she learned.  We wonder what her teacher would think.

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