Typically I read history books. Every once in a while I venture away from history into some of the other disciplines. Suffice it to say, I do not read fiction anymore. Fiction is a by-product of non-fiction. If you spend your time on non-fiction, than fiction becomes a sorry disappointment.
For instance, if you read the second half of ‘The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail’ (Baigent, Leigh & Lincoln), then you read as much as Dan Brown needed for ‘The Da Vinci Code’. The first edition of Holy Blood was published in 1982. A second (revised) edition was published in 1996 (the version I read). Whereas The Da Vinci Code was first published in 2003 – twenty-one years later.
Confession – I did not read The Da Vinci code. I listened to an unabridged version from audible.com. I need to fill time with information of one type or another and there is more opportunity for listening than reading. Sometimes I listen to fiction. Lately I’ve been hooked on classic radio. R U Sitting Comfortably (rusc.com) is the best repository of old time radio on the Internet.
Last week marked a switch from history to other non-fiction books. I read ‘Freakonomics’ (Levitt & Dubner). Interesting material. Their premise is, ‘Morality describes how the world should be. Economics describes how it actually is.’ There is a chapter on the nature of conventional racism based on a the statistics from an on-line dating service. I don’t want to get into the details, but the basic premise is that people ‘speak’ or ‘portray’ ourselves as racially open minded, but ‘act’ or ‘behave’ less so. Essentially, racism has slipped beneath the discernible surface of things, but it still exists.
This leads quite smoothly into ‘Blink’ (Gladwell), which I am currently reading. Blink is about ‘split-second decisions or determinations’. These are manifest from the adaptive unconscious, which is effectively the super-computer we all have in our minds. The adaptive unconscious is a very powerful tool, but it can be deceptive and, more dangerously, it can be manipulated.
An example cited in the book is a colour change in the packaging of a soda pop – 30% more yellow was added to the otherwise dominantly green packaging. There were not any changes made to the soda pop recipe. Regardless, the company received complaints from loyal consumers regarding what was perceived as the addition of lemon/lime flavouring to the pop. The packaging determined (transferred) the flavour change. Clearly not a good move for a company who does not want to offend their consumers, so the yellow was promptly removed from the packaging and the flavour returned to normal. This is a conditioned unconscious response to the colour yellow in relation to soda pop (I guess!!).
Well, turns out there’s a lot of this conditioning in our minds. Race, for instance. Perception of races other than one’s own is subject to extensive conditioning. Action as much as inaction determines a condition for a future response. We may all be born in an equal state of innocence (naivete), but it’s not long before the fences are erected. One could have the most enlightened parents in history, yet still would be unconsciously hard-wired to racial distinction (discrimination). Racial distinction exists in the fabric of our reality. Differentiating one from another is a method of determining meaning (understanding). The greatest fear is the fear of the unknown (hence the continued prevalence of religion in an otherwise scientific age). Fear causes some to lash out with hate. Hatred undermines understanding and is an ill-conceived method of self-preservation (survival).
Forget about love. Love isn’t the cure for anything. Love carries with it a sense of freedom. If there is one thing I understand, it is that most people do not function well (if at all) when the restraints are loosed. Understanding is the key. The concepts of right and wrong are metaphysical (moral) singularities. The rules of logic & anti-logic are disassembled into a jabbering pile of babelous bullshit as one approaches the kernel of truth. Truth is the fiction one writes for their reality. A truth for every aspect of every reality. So much meaning as to become meaningless. Truth is lost in a white-wash. By extension, falsehood (the distinction by which truth is defined and understood) is also meaningless to the point of non-existence. No single truth, no single falsity, no right or wrong.
All that remains is pleasure and pain. Pleasure is good. Pain is bad. Pretty simple. Sometimes the wires are crossed, but to each their own! Uh oh…more than one pleasure and more than one pain equates to a less definitive meaning. Pleasure for one is pain for another. There is nothing we can rely on to bring us together, no common ground upon which all of humanity could stand. Hmm, common ground. We all stand on the Earth. But at what point does the concept of self-preservation switch from the single-self to the greater-self? I don’t know that it ever will. Someone stands to profit for every measure to protect Earth. Someone must lose in equal measure. There is a finite amount of wealth on this planet. To be equal participants in a game, one must win and one must lose.