Upon Reflection


There is a benefit in attending school when you are an older adult one has the ability to exercise, to tap, one’s own life experiences. In so being, that one’s accessible experiences to debunk the philosophy of “theory” versus “practical” applications, which are examined in the enchantment of youth, and the various entrapments, has its benefits. Oh, one can still explore the esoteric, the obscure, but attending school as a more seasoned individual gives perspectives on the nature of things ; the way of things—if you please. In as much that life can be often be viewed personally, as a mere card game, in that, one’s own personal narrative lets an individual not only examine the qualities of life’s as a card game , but allows one to expand one’s purview, such that, life’s experiences may evolve into a more complex game for the mature adult—such as chess.

 

The evolution of growth from this game of life, chess that is, is far more representative, the subtle machinations of life workings can be viewed remotely, and objectively. Life’s pitfalls such as dealing with death, illness, and aging are “on par” for the more mature person’s journey of life. In the card game of life, however, the brevity of each hand reflects the short term perspective; chess can be both. The choices an individual makes, good or bad choices, guide the individual toward the either shorter or long term path. These paths may render the complexity of life’s games, chess or cards.

The chess metaphor allows for the evolvement of wisdom (of which covers the individual with satisfaction of lessons well learned); in the game of cards, the nakedness of instant gratification may be sweet and victorious, but mistakes once learned can be often repeated as a matter of course to facilitate the outcome (and sometimes need to do so). Admittedly, the short route (similar to the riskier and bolder moves in chess) is often more treacherous and rewarding as well as needed, but must we always be convicted by a steady pain to tender our evolution?

 

Yes, we must; through conviction of our spirit, we suffer for its enlightenment, and for its obtainment of knowledge with the maturing adult.

 

Should we not to learn from our previous convictions and crevices? The crevices that are our lowest moments in life; of which, the pitfalls and valleys are part of life’s journey as well as its emotions. Should we not build over these previous crevices? Should we not tear down old emotions, vices, attitudes, and moralities? I leave you with your own musings to decide such things.

 

However, to return to my point of the benefit of attending school, I should say, university, late in life, aids in the critical thinking of the subjects’ one has to attend. Furthermore, the benefit of a mature adult attending school later in years, at least for some, is the appreciation of history. To understand the “preciousness” of reflection, or its intrinsic satisfaction , before taking action in order to assimilate knowledge as well as the consequences that are found in the modality (in so being that the lessons of life are repetitive and can be seen as models or templates to provide instruction through allegories, metaphors, parables), and mortality of life’s toll. So, why do I set forth the beneficiaries of the mature student at university?

 

It is a means of introduction, an explanation to the discourse of the work of Giovanni Boccacio, the Decameron; in which, I will parlay momentarily. But let me first address one presumption, that death is wasted on youth, and as such the melancholic ideals—the trials and tribulations of life—are trivialized. The dearth of their appreciation of it sets the mature and youthful apart. To fully ascertain the certainty of it, death that is, one must be close in proximity of it. Admittedly, this is a generality, and death can compact (to reduce) the youthful heart, but I set my sights on a different plain, and that discussant is Boccacio’s plague, the revealing allegory of the complexity of life’s games, such as chess and cards.

* * * *

I remember as youth, in the 1980’s, when AIDS had plighted the consciousness of the American public. It was after the go-go 1970’s decade, from a historical perspective, represented: the western-American “sexual revolution,” the culmination of civil rights for women, the apex of the Feminist movement sought the passage of the ERA amendment to the US Constitution, and the country, the United States, was in the midst of an upswing of a conservative culture war movement.

 

The seemingly fresh paint on the wall of America’s culture war climate was and had been actually rooted in the mores of an older evangelical movement that steadily grew in the twentieth century. Fomenting, as early, if not earlier, as 1906, after the San Francisco earthquake, the Pentecostal charismatic movement a.k.a. Evangelical religious leaders advocated for t he county’s correction before God’s eyes. They pointed toward the difficult trials Americans were facing daily as an indication: cholera epidemics, pandemic flu, tenement living, racism, poverty, and war were its symptoms. But the root villain of this despair was science, and the symbol of this declension of moral values was the revered scientist Charles Darwin. For he represented the challenge to the “core values” of Americans, and their beliefs for the creation of life, this later culminated in the Scopes Monkey Trial, in Tennessee in 1925. Although, the evangelicals won, the exposure of the trial subverted Americans beliefs on the creation of life. It was as if a youth, wrought with emotion, began to realize their own irrationality and started to mature, into a rational adult.

 

In any event, the Pentecostal charismatic of the early twentieth century, transformed into the more politically activated evangelical Christians of the 1970’s. But they were not alone, Islam, the radical Arabs, in the Middle East, had taken its own evangelical turn in the 1970’s, but expressed it with guns. Evangelical Christians and Arabs sentiments were on ascension and both came in concert to the world stage at the end of 1970’s with Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, and Pat Robertson’s 700 Club along with Ayatollah Khomeini’s overthrow of the Shaw of Iran with his “revolutionary students.”

 

For the Evangelical Christians, it had been a culmination of events, which had set their political sights onto America’s consciousness, but one precipitous event seem to inflame there “soul,” the passing of “abortions rights” to women, in the US Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade. As for the Ayatollah, and the groups that would follow its radicalism, it was the oppression of the Shaw and the clash of civilization with the western-American mores, and its religious fanaticism with Israel . This inflammatory period resulted in a shift of American politics, consciousness, and ideals. And, the finding of a leader that represented the shifting of those beliefs, but held firm of the ones that America held golden: truth, justice, and the American way of life. He advocated conservatism with a pragmatic voice; he was seen as the fatherly figure that led us to redemption, salvation, and strength; to resolve the crisis of America’s heart and was elected to restore the majesty of the presidential office of the United States. He reversed the youthful forays of the country and provided a more seasoned perspective as he guided the American public through its own Bocaccio’s plaque tribulation. He was President Ronald Reagan and he used his life lessons of chess to guide America and Americans out of the crisis to come.

 

* * * *

 

It was a sunny afternoon in 1981, mid-June, when my mother told me that, her friend, her bassist (electronic), had suddenly died on stage while performing a local “gig” (show) up in Boulder. At the time, they did not know what exactly caused his death, but they knew it had something to do with immune system; it was later be identified as a variant of AIDS.

 

It, AIDS, was the biological crises of the 1980’s; no one knew exactly how it was contracted, but the one certainty, it seemed, to be afflicting what the politically correct referred to as “marginalized” communities: minorities and homosexuals . Fear ran rampant, religious leaders, implicated, indicted, and prophesied that, AIDS was a sign from God as being displeased with our sinful nature. Others indicated it was the filth, the laziness of these communities, and the lack of moral fortitude that had brought down “God’s” punishment.

Similar punishment arguments were brought during the plaque of Boccacio’s Decameron, he says, “the most beautiful of Italian cities, noble Florence, was attacked. It started in the East either through influence of the heavenly bodies, or because God’s with our wicked deeds; sent it as a punishment to mortal men; and in a few years killed innumerable quantity of people” [my emphasis]. Take note, this pandemic was an illness that consumed the entirety of Europe with or without God’s help.

 

So, for Boccacio’s Decameron, God condemned man’s choices of free expression and will, and it was man’s fault for the suffering at hand. Thus, the sinful nature of the 1970’s was the same as the sinful nature of the era of the Black Death. But let us not take a reductive stand for the motive of religion and limit it to the disease alone. No. Some used the machinations of religiosity to foster an agenda for power, money, and acquisition. Yes, the opiate of religion was used as an artifice of misfortune to triumphantly tocsin the return of His glory against the masses.

 

In a real sense, religion played the cards of its hands against the other cards of the masses to exhort its control for authority. This exhortation was also true for the evangelical Christian movement in the 1980’s as the spread of AIDS instilled fear to the public. (See religion latest example of terrorization: the disasters of hurricane Katrina, Rita, earthquake in Pakistan or for that the matter tsunami in the Asian Pacific quadrant have been illuminated as God’s wrath). Thus, emotionalism ran high as the dearth of rationality ebb to the lowest crevice of life’s trials; religious shrill drowned out reason and empiricism.

 

By comparison, the fated 1980’s tussled with narratives similar to those in the Boccacio’s Decameron: friends, families, and acquaintances isolated themselves away from one another; wild acts of perilous behavior seeded the flames of fear. Some turned their fears inward, while others tempered themselves through prayer, some through moderation, some tried to splash emotion with common sense, and yet still, others partied with raucous joy and left their desires to fate. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we may die! Thus, the rational of the American public as a spire above the waves of uncertainty, but like a passionate adolescent, impertinent and impatient, they wanted a new set of cards to be dealt, as they tried to come to accept their own frailties. “Life is not fair!” is the cry of the teenager.

 

Regardless of these attitudes, the American public in comparison to the citizens of Boccacio’s Florence were that of fearful people trapped by the uncertainty of the disease that enveloped them. Some thought by simply touching a homosexual one could contract the disease; no one knew for sure, if by touched, by saliva, by air, by the sexual act itself transmitted the contamination of death. In Boccacio’s time, however, the variants strains of the plague were transmitted in this manner . Nevertheless, the psychology of fear was the same, some groups and persons used this opportunity to increase divisiveness with the “marginalized” communities.

In addition to this divisiveness, the culture of fear meted out another layer of ostracism. A gulf of separation by the “hegemonic,” “normative” community was necessary for the co-option of the mundane, the Middle American, into “behaving” properly in order to maintain order. And yet! AIDS spread into the heterosexual community cross contaminating through blood transfusions and sexual activity. The befoulment of AIDS and the Black Death contributed, handling of bodies and their fluid aided the spreading of the disease faster. It took the “bravery” of an all American boy, Ryan White, to bring the sanity to the consciousness of Americans.

 

This all American boy returned and reminded a nation of its compassion. He, Ryan White, reminded the public that not everything was simple as a card game, but had areas of grays, not merely black and white. He reminded a nation of their own children, and that tragedies of life are more complex and that their quantity for wanting their nakedness of gratification, the raw moment, was populated with people.

Real people are not a hand of cards to be tossed away, nor are they pawns (used in chess for basic moves), but are complex and each of them are the kings and queens of their own destiny. In Decameron, this too was true, it took the literacy of the elite to understand the walls in which they hid behind was their own ignorance, and in America it took the en masse media to embrace and remind Americans of their greatest treasure—their children and their propagation of future hope. The solution may seem different, but they are the same. The educated elite of the Decameron help transfer fear into providence; in that, they found their own treasure and light to traverse their darkest of times. While an educated American public restored the calm of civility in order to treat each other well. And, as in all things, the experience of time shunted (collapses) the impatience of fear; as a youthful, misguided, and raucous impertinent behavior that is attributed to lack of understanding and that of the inexperienced and the unexplainable—the mystical awe—became swallowed by the measure of time as those who become more seasoned prevailed as their wisdom recollected the words of Dante, from the mouth of Beatrice,

 

Know then, O waiting and compassionate soul,
that is to
fear which has the power to harm,
and nothing else is fearful even in
Hell….

These words were later reshaped by one of our nation’s great stewards, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself,” and so it goes the mature adult, upon reflection of history, and the wisdom of practical experiences versus theories and philosophies of life's games are exposed. These experiences provide truths that are not ruled by the cards, but by the complexities of a more complex game called chess. And as for me, though I did not understand all the tragedies of AIDS epidemic, at the time, I some how muddled through the crises and found balance; it might had been the early exposure from my mom and her calmness when she reported the death of her bassist, or it simply might had been stoic leadership of a great man that led us through many crises during the 1980’s, with his compassion and wisdom, once again that man was President Ronald Reagan. Nevertheless, for whatever reason for my clarity, there was a greater shade of gray as I lived through “biological crisis” of the 1980’s and I realize the complexity of life’s game is not that of cards, but of chess….End notes

1 The obvious reasons for attending school late in life for most adults are for economic reasons, but as one goes through experience of university, there are opportunities to challenge one’s ideals and perspectives, but the experiences of life gives credence to the validation or refutation of theories of philosophy.2 A Reference to Lucretius’s philosophy, who felt that, a person’s existence merely, was that of the material world and saw that worrying about those things outside of the self –meaningless.

3 Greek Philosopher, Cleanthes, spoke of life’s trials, in form of playing cards metaphor. He also used the analogy of the play to explain his philosophical point. To understand, to appreciate the card game, the hand that has been dealt in life, and to seek reference within the hand, and understand our place in the consequence of the play of life. Probable first reference for Shakespeare’s oft quoted, “All the world a stage.”

4 By on par, I mean, “on average” a person’s life has tragedies, but also joys and celebrations; which seems in the short term, like an euphoric high or a devastating loss that can be, upon reflection, the tribulations of life’s journey.

5 One may assume, I mean the accumulation of knowledge, but I literally mean the evolvement of it. Like in evolution, knowledge can be observed as trials and errors. In essence, either knowledge is true or false. In evolution, either the life works within the frame that helps create it, or it does not and it fails. Think of it this way, knowledge let’s move forward or backward, build or deconstruct the culture in the same way evolution establishes a foot hold, thus allowing the knowledge to build or branch off into new undiscovered knowledge, which then allows for more trails or errors.

6 Petrarch, in his story, Mount Ventaux, thought so. He describes his ascent with Gherado, his brother, who took the shorter route as he traversed the long circuitous path.

7 My professor Kurt Pond reminded me that the satisfaction of experience contributes to the mature adult.

8 In the 1970’s, the decade was considered to be that of “free love”; sexuality or sex was deemed “cost free” or “consequence free,” for women with the advent of the birth control pill reaching mass production, and the access to have an abortion gave women the power over the bodies. From the religious conservative view, promiscuity was rampant, even salacious to the extreme. In the US, by the end of 1980’s, a correction had resulted in the return to its puritanical roots regarding sexuality, while in Europe a maturing realization of its own sexual identity became an underlying temperament.

9 Equal Rights Amendment which failed, seeking the equalization of woman in not only in liberties, but in status and in pay, and was supposed to be the establishment of women’s self sovereignty. However, as a result, though many aspects equality are still muted, the shift in women obtaining power and money has been radicalized many times to their benefit since the 1970’s.

10 In a unpublished work by Jack David Eller, Culture to the Ultimate: The Anthropological Study of Religion, he discourses on the fundamentalists movements of the 1970’s, he describes the rise of Orthodox movement, from the right-wing Likud party elected in Israel in 1977, in 1979 Moral Majority founded, and the Islamic Revolution under Khomeini took hold, these movements signaled a shift in the planetary consciousness. In the years that followed, the fundamentalist movement gained political clout as the militancy Islamic grew. (source Jack David Eller unpublished book, page 145…I understand from the author it will be published soon.

11 As a young adult, I voted for him in the mid 1980’s, but I did not always agree with him. I voted for the man, not his issues, I disagreed with perspective on abortion, but I felt strongly that government should always remain limited. Government should be an indicator of the people’s will, and that regulations, laws, should pointers of the people’s desire. Not instruction of how to behave, or how to act. Ronald Reagan for me upon reflection communicated the charisma, the imagery of the US, and its beacon of hope of the experiment of light the US proclaims.

12 One of the most divisive social mores of the twentieth century and beyond, has been the controversy of sexual liberty, the definition of nature verses behavior, and the right of the person to chose their sexual identity, or the person inherited, meaning heredity choice, being born with, their sexual identity coded in the person. For me the argument is mute, whether born or inherited why a person chooses a particular style of life is their enumerated right and condemnation of such choices are against the society of men, and his right to exist as a free individual.

13 This is a paraphrase of oft quoted remarks from Karl Marx, that, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”

14 There seems to be a dispute of who first said this first, between Imhotep born a few thousands years before, or in the Christian gospels written in the majority by St. Paul. In any event, it is public domain and now clichéd reference to “enjoy the moment.”

15 According to the Decameron Web site, the scientific causes came in four shapes; the bubonic (which is insect related) and was the most common, and did not transfer human to human, while the pneumonic plague was contracted during the winter and affected the respiratory system, and the other two; although rare, were 100% fatal, because the septicemic and enteric plagues respectively affected the digestive and blood systems. Cited from the Decameron Website:

http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Italian_Studies/dweb/plague/causes/sci_causes.shtml.

16 This term was created what by the political activists considered the oppressed minorities, in that, societal state of affairs “marginalized” their conditions for success. These groups, homosexuals, Hispanics, and black communities became shunned.

17 A young man, named Ryan White, enabled Americans to get over their fears and start doing hard research enabling the government to better understand the causes and infection rates. This critical mass moment seemingly somehow reached the underpinnings of the dominated. He represented everything that they were and also everything that “marginalized” communities were not. He was them, and by ill fortune, he had received the disease.

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One Response to “Upon Reflection”

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