Sunday, January 14, 2018

Book Treasures


Writing a book is like burying a treasure for someone else to find. Until the book is read, it lies dormant like a hidden treasure.

The Enchanted Castle 

Like in Edith Nesbit's 1907 book, The Enchanted Castle, a book adhering to my personal tastes would have Yalding-like towers, noted for their carved wall paneling as well as an impressive array of arms and treasures collected therein by that civilization's ruling class. 

Magical rings would be passed down to the royal family, having been originally given to that family's first king by a supernatural being centuries earlier. As to be expected, there would be a price to pay for these supernatural rings, one of insight.

At first blush, the young man to whom these rings were bestowed was thrilled at the prospect of heightened awareness and ease of knowing beyond ordinary human perception. That is until he faces the challenges and loneliness associated with the gift of insight, leading to a dark family curse.

The All-Knowing Curse

The All-Knowing Curse is the curse resulting from heightened awareness and knowing. On the 14th-birthday each eldest child in the great lineage of the royal family awakens to an intense morning of nearly blinding visions and deafening sounds.

From this point forward, the sovereign must live in relative seclusion, away from the intensity that is knowing the fate of others instantaneously upon meeting them or hearing their names spoken. The sovereign feels faint at the roar of the sun pulsating and igniting the planet's otherwise cool cosmic breeze. Away from the blinding rays of the sun, away from the swells of energie that flow through and around every being on the planet, the new sovereign spends his day in deep meditation on how to best benefit the kingdom, and how to break the curse, which impedes the most beautiful and natural response to living: HOPE.

Without hope, knowing eventually becomes fruitless. Alone in the burden of insight, the sovereign surrounds himself with painters and writers and master craftsmen and women of all sorts. Every day is a race to create as many objects as that which might convey the insight he inherited on behalf of future generations so that they might learn how to read these objects and use them to protect the kingdom.

The moment the sovereign touches the clay or parchment, the finished object unfolds before him. Relentlessly pulling the sovereign toward its manifestation, the energies of the finished object already exist, demanding to be brought into being.

Reluctantly, the sovereign obeys the strong forces of nature by inviting architects and engineers to design and build the visions that invade the sovereign's being. All objects must be brought to life for the curse to end and release the sovereign from the incessant creation he must endure in response to living with omniscience.

The Great Seclusion 

For nearly 250 years, the sovereign and the royal family travel the globe, creating new settlements among the many beautiful forests and secluded mountains. Each settlement might be regarded as a capital. In the great citadel sits the seat of the younger siblings, who are now in charge, having been spared the first-born curse of omniscience. Many of the younger siblings remain loyal to the eldest sovereign and the royal lineage, but some react according to their natural predicament, sometimes rejecting the eldest entirely, in an attempt to forge their own kingdom.

The all-knowing eldest sovereign does not find pleasure in their reactions but understands the limitations of human insight, and in that understanding cannot disparage any of the princes or princesses for responding according to their conscience. As the younger siblings go on to produce grain and breed cattle, or to sheep-farm, life tends to be joyous and prosperous unless bandits invade the region and the younger prince or princess is caught off-guard.

The Girl in the Hamlet 

For the very first time in over two centuries of royal lineage, the now-reigning eldest sovereign is born a girl. She grows up on a gentle country estate, traveling with her family to distant lands that are hers to inherit. She is a stubborn, prolific, acutely astute, clear-sighted girl. She is observant and perceptive, quick-witted and ingenious at solving puzzles. Despite her obvious talents, she is discreet, holding the confidences of others out of simple loyalty.

As it has been for centuries, at the age of 14 she awakens. Climbing up the fence to reach the furthermost edge of the roof's awning, she hoists herself up. This is the highest place she can reach to gaze upon the sheer greatness of the world.

Our young sovereign soon realizes she must leave behind her family inheritance and forge her own creations. By nature of her inherited but royal lineage, other royal families feel at ease in her lively and gracious presence. They invite her into their kingdom, where she is admired by the highest sovereign in that land, but rejected by the others who seek his approval. It is of no consequence for she is not designed to remain. As in the tradition of her royal ancestors, she must travel onward to thwart the curse.

After many years of nomadic traveling, she settles in a quiet country estate, where from here she educates her progeny on the many great constitutions of the world. Seeking only the highest gems of understanding, she passes each piece of the torch she fashions for them to hold together. Curse or no curse, she is without a doubt the most stubborn sovereign in her entire lineage. She refuses to be held captive by the universe, by a supernatural being or by a curse, no matter how powerful.

She ignores her knowing, challenging fate to a dual at every possible instance. The curse fights back with a formidable resistance. She does not retreat. She stands her ground, determined to end the curse once and for all.

The Hamlet 

Getting through the gates to the sovereign is no easy task. A traveler will first come upon a thick mist which clears at an altitude of about three thousand metres; visible above it is a mountain range with incandescent smoke rising from its volcanic craters.

Visitors are advised that upon reaching the grounds of the sovereign's Hamlet their watches will stop; this is normal and complaints should not be made to the manufacturers.

The first view of the Hamlet is a phosphorescent plateau stretching out at the foot of the mountains, blue and white, with lakes and pools linked by meandering canals and streams. The mountains are steep, their broken slopes revealing caves, excavations, and water-filled craters. Grey sand lines the water's edge. The porous rock is luminous, throwing a brightish light all around, except for upon the Hamlet itself which is nestled under the protective shade of thousand-year-old Oak trees. The pools are rather like water gardens, holding dense, warm (38ºC.) water. Its density makes it difficult to plunge one's arm into it, as it runs off the skin like mercury.

The mercury serves as a natural barrier where the sovereign might live in relative harmony with her environment, despite her heightened sensibilities. There is no wind, no dust, and no odors. The flora is peculiar - bushes, fruit trees, and succubus plants thrive. Near the path where she takes her morning walks are coral-like plants, white and luminous, and taller trees like spun glass, with round, opaque leaves and round, transparent fruits, which she savors and shares with the many creatures who travel freely without fence among the lavish grounds.

The Hamlet is the land of this era's sovereign. The local inhabitants have no knowledge of the family's royal heritage, nor of the curse. Nothing changes in this immobile present tense; nothing has a future; everything is clear. There are no mysteries, no concealment, no lies, no fatigue, no pain. The only activity that is known to have taken place in the Hamlet is described in the chronicles of HTTP's account of a journey to this magical place.

When the light began to fade during the last complete solar eclipse, the sovereign created a very special object, indeed. A painting of a Dragon Panda holding a bamboo rod. The Dragon Panda painting the eclipse with just a sliver of light.

In one symbolic gesture, the sovereign breaks the curse by capturing it on the canvas. In this moment, a white crane appears. In reward for breaking the curse, the sovereign and her family are rewarded with longevity and the lovely trappings of not-knowing.

Hope fills the halls of the Hamlet, which is under renovation. The creation continues. But now, instead of creating to free energies into being, creation occurs to harness energie in a direction that will benefit all of the princes and princesses of the land.

The Treasures 

The Hamlet holds many treasures, which retain their memories of the many sovereigns who came before them. Those graceful and gentle creatures whose favorite pastime was to swim and play in the pools. They produced little to no ripples and had no true needs; they slept early and fast and lived mostly on air. They communicated in a soft musical language and yet did not listen to music. They had none of the vices known to men.

Visitors and historians who learned of these sovereigns and their first-born curse came to the conclusion that while they disappeared from sight long, long ago, their essence lived on, in the many tales of what we now call correct behavior and sound judgment, and especially in the many acts of seemingly innocent kindness, the type of kindness one might express without desire for recognition or gratitude, but simply because it feels good and natural.

Where are the many treasures collected by this royal family? Who knows, you may be in possession of one of these objects in your own home. If you are uncertain, ask yourself if you truly know the origin of where the objects in your possession were fabricated. Could it be that one of these treasures has already found its way to your family?

Then ask yourself, if you are in possession of any treasure, object, insight or otherwise, what will you do with it?

To be continued ... maybe. 




*Note to reader:

Dear Reader,

Thank you for visiting HTTP (Happy Thoughts Travel Fast). This short story was written on a foggy, Sunday morning from inside my personal library. Sipping coffee from my favorite travel cup, surrounded by books, by the many great authors of history, past and present, I bow in appreciation to Raymond Roussel, Impressions d'Afrique, 1910; Lloyd Alexander, The Book of Three, 1964; and many others too numerous to mention.

The beauty of writing is the juxtaposition of earthy thoughts with earthy imaginings, the combination of which produces mystical lands in far-off imaginary places that can be visited time and time again, simply for the pleasure of it.

I hope you enjoyed this little tale, which is inspired by the lives of the world's past sovereigns and their progeny, and by life's many twists and turns. And in honor of "not knowing" what may come - an absolutely beautiful state of being in which hope flourishes, filling our hearts with joy and wonder.

Sincerely,
The Author















Saturday, December 2, 2017

The page you're looking for could not be found

"Ay me! for aught that I could ever read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth;
The page you're looking for could not be found."
—Shakespeare

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

CONTENTS
  1. The movie
  2. Leaf Falling Example
  3. Determinism
  4. Random Snoopy Example
  5. Flower Plucking Example
  6. Hume
  7. Bart Simpson & Dobby Example
  8. R&G Are Dead




The Movie

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is a Tom Stoddard flick about free will against the plot of Shakespeare's Hamlet. It illuminates the philosophical debate between Hard (or, Soft) Determinism vs Libertarian Free Will or Hume’s compatibilism. It is a theatrical query on whether or not life is determined, or whether we have free will. 

Leaf Falling Example

If you take for instance the leaves falling from the trees in a Northern Hemispheric winter, you might say the leaves had to fall due to the presence of a hormone in leaf-dropping trees that signals a chemical message to every leaf to essentially, “Take a dive!” 


Once this message is received, little cells appear where the leaf stem meets the branch. They are called “abscission” cells. Like their namesake, “scissors,” they cut themselves free. 

Determinism

In this sense, a leaf must fall. Its prior causes necessitate later effects. It is the leaf's fate to fall; it is already determined. 

Random Snoopy Example

“What if the wind picks up and blows the leaf off the tree?” 


That’s a good question, Snoopy. 

In this scenario, it appears that the leaf’s fate is random, i.e., not-determined. It can be affected by additional forces. Since the presence of random is not under our direct control, there is still no free will.

Hume

But what if your tribe is seated at the same campfire as Hume? 



You may retort the notion of determinism, saying that free will does not mean to do other than what you actually do, nor is it something that happens other than what actually happens

It means, doing something you want to do, regardless. 


Flower Plucking Example

Here, we pluck a flower and put it in our hair. Adorning ourselves with nature’s beauty. We exercised free will when we chose to pluck the flower. We seal its fate in our own story. 


Was the flower going to wither and fall, regardless of our action? Yes. 

Did we exercise free will? 
Yes. No. Maybe?

Bart Simpson & Dobby Example

Consider instead a more serious topic, one of life and death. 


In this scenario, we as human beings cannot escape death. We are still trapped in the cycle of birth and death (regardless of whether that cycle is singular or plural; get it? This image of Bart dying over and over is a gif. It keeps playing). 


We still die 
(dramatic pause), 
eventually. 

But if we had a choice, we may not choose death. The fact that is not our choice to make indicates that we have no free will. 



This is the dilemma of determinism, 
Dobby.



R&G Are Dead

In R&G Are Dead, both realize they are trapped. Literally living out a certain set of actions. In their realization, they still "decide" (free will) not to tell Hamlet, which ultimately leads to their deaths, the climax of their roles in the play Hamlet. 

Oh, and, by the way, 


Heads or tails? 

"Free will is a revenge theory.
We cannot answer the question of who wins."
~Soph Laugh







Friday, November 3, 2017

Cato Letters, Revisited


"We derive our liberty directly from our nature as human beings." 


Powerful words echo through the pages of time, relevant still today as they were in 1720 when the London Journal launched a series of letters under the pseudonym "Cato." The letters were written with such vigor and eloquence that they soon made the London Journal the nation's most influential paper - a particularly vexatious irritant to the administration.  

John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon wrote about more than the bursting of the South Sea Bubble. Their political convictions were consistent with the natural law and natural rights theories embraced by the radical Whig writers and particularly by John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government. 

The theoretical principle upon which Cato based the authority and compass of government was in our inherent right to defend ourselves against those who would trespass against our lives, liberty, or property. The contract by which civil society is established is one that constrains sovereignty to the safeguarding of the lives and estates of its subjects. This proposition defines the limit of state action, relegating its role to only that which is necessary to enforce "the laws of agreement and society." 

When government seeks to impose constraints upon the individual's natural and absolute liberty, beyond that which is necessary, the state becomes despotic and must eventually fall to revolution. 

Again, powerful words, but what do they mean? Beyond Trenchard and Gordon's fondness for the Whig revolutionary martyr, Algernon Sidney, whose Discourses Concerning Government was one of the leading treatises on the rights of resistance to tyrannical government, was the philosophy that self-same rights have their origin in the laws of nature, from which the rights of the individual are derived, directly prior to the establishment of civil society. 

In the name of self-awareness, a wave of patriotism swept the land, combined with High Church views, which judged failure equally pernicious. The next wave as passionate as The Independent Whig, which vehemently advanced the primacy of the individual conscience over ecclesiastical authority. 

Two groups in diametric opposition, with the same distrust of hierarchy and an equal sympathy with latitudinarian principles, albeit differently expressed. 

If freedom of conscience is our first natural right, then immunity from the convictions and judgments of others is the clearest implication of the supreme law of nature. In other words, 

To each their own.

The style and wit permeating through the Cato letters attack pretension, leaving collaboration in its place. The world of "collective enterprise" forged the way for the industrial revolution. From the embers that regenerated the classics, to the birth of the next new fiction. The stories we continue to tell ourselves along the way echoing public support. 

The penultimate recognition of self-hood is the limits of authority any One has over the other. In society we are held accountable for the results of our actions, intentional or unintentional, knowing or unknowing. To safeguard other we temporarily imprison ourselves. Where? Oh where, did our freedom go? 

Controversies arise when we attempt to answer that question because the answer is not the answer. The question is the answer. The unanswered question implies an incomplete understanding of freedom. If some are free and others are not, none of us can know freedom. We can only know the illusion of freedom. 

Where, then, can freedom be found? 

There is no such thing as a Glorious Revolution, only the spectacular growth of collective debt brought about in large measure by the sacrifices incurred in the endeavor to safeguard illusions. The wars of kings, nothing but ill-conceived self-protective schemes carried out under the illusion of freedom, in exchange for monopoly privileges, at the cost of heavy burdens for public credit and public goodwill, under which the whole of society operates. 

Under the terms of the principles culminating throughout the Cato letters, we are told to look to nature for individual authority. In other words, to look within. When faced with a choice to exercise authority, we realize that it is not a choice, but a matter of seasonal fortune and circumstance. As the world evolves, so too do our seasons. A season for reaping, a season for sowing. The collective centerpiece becoming: Progress. 

But progress is just another name for work, with the proceeds going to the fortunate. In Book X of Virgil's Aeneid is writ: Fortune favors the bold. In book XII, fortune is that which we learn (receive) from others.  In other words, fortune is a gift. But even Virgil feared the Greeks, even when they brought gifts. 

By receiving more, we must become more. More is the foundation upon which opportunity is born. When life offers one more, the one who honors self-freedom intimately senses the notion of privilege, recognizes the opportunity of that state, and feels the responsibility to give back by becoming the epitome of that which brings more to the world. 

It is human nature to desire more, to do more, to become more, and to give more. Reconciling the gifts of nature with human nature is where the greatest opportunity for human advancement lies. Human evolution is not the taking of liberties under false illusion. It is the recognition of liberty of all. 

The instant that liberty and the recognition of liberty become the driving principle of humanity is the instant in which we will, as a species, understand freedom. The path to this understanding is our collective journey and all that we do to advance it, a gift to the world. 

The illusion that false liberty affords benefits some but not all. The alliance between what benefits and that which offers safety of all people is what constitutes the Supreme Law. It is the Supreme Laws that the liberators of society seek. This is our measurement rod, not crime and punishment. 

Even Trenchard re-examined a number of his political beliefs when Gordon died. Political adjustment is precisely what is required for a world that desires to discover true freedom. Until our world leaders act on behalf of THE ALL, we do not understand the meaning of government. We have and know only the illusion of government, no matter how influential. 

The natural rights purported by enlightenment thinking are not limited to government. The proper limits of authority reside with the individual. The right to resist tyrannical magistrates is personified in individual compromise. The sharing of the world's resources is what loosens the shackles of our collective illusions. 



Solidarity is Freedom










Sunday, October 15, 2017

Harvard with My Daughter: Richard III

WITH MY DAUGHTER


Below is my homework on Richard III: that revengeful, plotting, deformed Machiavellian tyrant we love to hate. I got a B+. 


ENGL E-124
Shakespeare’s Early Plays
Fall 2017


1. The first thirteen lines in Richard III’s opening soliloquy are about the improved state of affairs for his family after the ascendency of his brother King Edward IV to the English Crown. “Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this son of York” (1.1.1-1.1.2). Using winter and summer as metaphors for sadness and celebration, Richard III reminds the audience that his family suffered during the civil wars and the wars of the Roses, when “clouds … loured” (1.1.3) upon their house (of York). But in line fourteen, the monologue shifts from a relieved Duke of Gloucester for his family’s “victorious wreaths” (1.1.5) to the revengeful, plotting, deformed tyrant, known as Richard III: “I, that am rudely stamped (1.1.16) / Cheated of feature by dissembling nature (1.1.19) / Deformed, unfinished (1.1.20) ... villain” (1.1.30). Here, we discover that the kingdom may be at peace: “Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings” (1.1.7) under the sunny reign of his brother Edward IV, but the spell of the long winter: “In the deep bosom of the ocean buried” (1.1.4) remains with our vibrantly melodramatic hero-villain who has “no delight to pass away the time” (1.1.25). His determination to become the villain speaks to the real-life political scheming – made ever more popular by the Tudors - of a tyrant’s ascent to political power. Richard III laments that he “hate[s] the idle pleasures of these days” (1.1.31), then declares “And if King Edward be as true and just / As I am subtle, false and treacherous / This day should Clarence closely be mewed up” (1.1.37 – 1.1.38). Here, Richard IIIs plotting and promulgation of the false prophesy “which says that ‘G’ / Of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be” (1.1.39 – 1.1.40) stops with the poignantly abrupt: “Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here Clarence comes” (1.1.41). At the surface, it is as if he is silencing the mechanisms of his own tyrannical thoughts in order to falsely greet Clarence with the mild smile and gracious air tyrants put on when rallying support for power. No strenuous effort is required on behalf of the audience/Reader to recognize Richard III as the rationalist tyrant. In Book VIII of Plato’s Republic, the regime of the tyrant is examined, explaining that in the early days he has a smile and a greeting for everyone he meets (such as how Richard III greets Clarence); he disclaims absolute power (Buckingham convinces the people that Richard III is the true ruler; then Richard III feigns modesty: (3.7.204) “I am unfit for state and majesty.”); essentially scheming (spreads lies, slanders others, generates conflicts between others to promote his plot) his way to the throne. Richard IIIs deceitful machinations are transparent and ironic, bringing an Elizabethan/modern audience to delight in the notion that the unflinching, unsparing villainous Richard III lost more than his life in the process - he lost his soul.

2. When in Act I, Scene III, it is proclaimed that King Edward IV wants to make peace between his wife Queen Elizabeth and Richard III, and their respective kinsmen, Richard III takes the offense, accusing Queen Elizabeth of wishing her husband dead and imprisoning Clarence and Lord Hastings: “Meantime, God grants that I have need of you: / Our brother is imprison’d by your means” (1.3.76-77) and “You may deny that you were not the mean / Of my Lord Hastings’ late imprisonment” (1.3.89-90).  Naturally, Queen Elizabeth is forced into defensive posturing: “Brother of Gloucester, you mistake the matter / The king, on his own royal disposition, / And not provoked by any suitor else / Aiming, belike, at your interior hatred / That in your outward action shows itself / Against my children, brothers, and myself / Makes him to send, that he may learn the ground” (1.3.62).  Entering the scene, at first unnoticed, Queen Margaret, widow of Henry VI, upon overhearing Richard III and Queen Elizabeth’s discord, laments for her lost husband, son, and title: “I was, but I do find more pain in banishment / Than death can yield me here by my abode / A husband and a son thou ow’st to me / And thou a kingdom; all of you allegiance / The sorry that I have, by right is yours / And all the pleasures you usurp are mine” (1.3.166-171).  Queen Margaret further curses Richard III: “And leave out thee? Stay, dog, for thou shalt hear me / If heaven have any grievous plague in store / Exceeding those that I can wish upon thee / O, let them keep it till thy sins be ripe” (1.3.214-217) and then curses Elizabeth: “Poor painted queen, vain flourish of my fortune / Why strew’st thou sugar on that bottled spider / Whose deadly web ensnareth thee about? / Fool, fool, thou whet’st a knife to kill thyself / The day will come that thou shalt wish for me / To help thee curse this poisonous bunch-backed toad” (1.3.242-247). Essentially, Queen Margaret is portrayed as bitter about the assignation of her husband and son and her loss of power: “I was, but I do find more pain in banishment / Than death can yield me here by my abode” (1.3.166-167). Out of pain and grief, she curses Queen Elizabeth to the same fate: “Thyself a queen, for me that was a queen / Outlive thy glory, like my wretched self! / Long mayst thou live to wail thy children's death / And see another, as I see thee now / Decked in thy rights, as thou art stalled in mine / Long die thy happy days before thy death / And, after many lengthened hours of grief / Die neither mother, wife, nor England’s queen” (1.3.200-207), and with these poignant words she foreshadows the play’s plot. When Queen Margaret returns in Act 4 Scene 4 she admits how her curses come to fruition: “... prosperity begins to mellow / And drop into the rotten mouth of death” (4.4.1-2). Margaret further warns the Duchess of York, Mother to King Edward IV, Clarence, and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, that she is: “hungry for revenge” (4.4.60) and that of Richard III she aspires to declare: “The dog is dead!” (4.4.77). It is here when Queen Elizabeth recites Queen Margaret’s curse: “O, thou didst prophesy the time would come / That I should wish for thee to help me curse / That bottled spider, that foul bunch-backed toad!” (4.4.78-80). Again we see the use of a toad as a metaphor. In the Book of Exodus, the Second Plague brings frogs and Richard III is being likened to one. Aesop wrote a fable about an old frog who died after trying to inflate herself to become as big and powerful as the ox that crushed a young frog into the mud (perhaps a metaphor for Richard III’s involvement in the demise of the essentially helpless Edward V, King of England and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York – the two young brothers and only sons of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville). Here we see an almost woeful prophet of God, Queen Margaret, acknowledging how she had cursed Queen Elizabeth: “I called thee then vain flourish of my fortune” (4.4.81) but now, seeing it come to fruition, acquiesces to Queen Elizabeth’s request to “quicken” (4.4.123) her words so that they will “pierce” (4.4.124) like her own. Here she comes to the aid of Queen Elizabeth. After bestowing a gift in recompense, Queen Margaret exits, but her wrath continues in Queen Elizabeth’s Margaretian-like curses of Richard III. Without Queen Margaret the play would lose the ‘eye-for-an-eye’ logic derived from the Bible (“Vengence is mine.” Deuteronomy 32.35), though Queen Margaret’s willingness to help Queen Elizabeth find the words to curse Richard III almost implies a ‘turn the other cheek’ (Matthew 5:39) attitude. While the divine right of kings, or God’s mandate, the political and religious doctrine of royal and political legitimacy asserting that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving the right to rule directly from the will of God, did not come to the fore until under the reign of James I of England (1603-1625), the Christian notion of a divine right can be traced back to 1 Samuel (24:6-7) when “[David] said to his men, ‘The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” In this way, Queen Margaret could not vow to harm Richard III, only curse him, for it would be against the word of God to do otherwise. This keeps the play in check with the Protestant Rule of Faith: “ALL Protestants agree in teaching that “the word of God, as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” (Archibald Alexander Hodge). Under Queen Elizabeth I, the scriptures were infallible, and given in inspiration by God. This aspect speaks to the divine authority of the Tudor monarchy, attesting that it is by the will of God that the monarchs reign on Earth.

3. When Richard III with his train enter, asking: “Who intercepts me in my expedition?” (4.4.135), his mother, the Duchess of York, claims it is “she that might have intercepted thee / By strangling thee in her accursed womb / From all the slaughters, wretch, that thou hast done!” (4.4.136 – 138). Here, his own mother laments his very existence, but he reminds her that he is “... the lord’s anointed” (4.4.150), further attesting to his legitimacy and the fine line upon which even his mother treads. He implores that she: “Either be patient and entreat me fair” (4.4.151) or he will “...with the clamorous report of war / ... drown your exclamations” (4.4.152-153), which he does with the sounding of alarums. His mother demands to speak: “O, let me speak!” (4.4.159) to which he retorts: “Do then, but I’ll not hear” (4.4.160). The Duchess of York softens her tone: “I will be mild and gentle in my words” (4.4.161). “I have stayed for thee / God knows, in torment and in agony” (4.4.163). Here, Richard III reassures his mother, “And came I not at last to comfort you?” (4.4.165). But it is to no avail, for his mother now recounts of the burdens of her pregnancy with him: “A grievous burden was thy birth to me” (4.4.168) and how he, despite in his prime being “daring, bold, and venturous” (4.4.171) only in age to be: “confirmed, proud, subtle, sly and bloody / More mild, but yet more harmful, kind in hatred / What comfortable hour canst though name / That ever graced me with thy company?” (4.4.172-175). Basically, she is giving him the ultimate guilt trip. Richard III reminds her that they had “breakfast once forth” (4.4.177) but that if he “be so disgracious in your eye / Let me march on and not offend you, madam / Strike up the drum” (4.4.178-180).  Here, his mother pleads again: “I prithee hear me speak ... Hear me a word / For I shall never speak to thee again” (4.4.181, 4.4.183-184). Richard III consents, really he has no choice as she words are thunderous over the alarums. Now begins the curse put upon Richard III by his own mother: “Either thou wilt die, by God’s just ordinance / Ere from this war thou turn a conqueror / Or I with grief and extreme age shall perish / And never more behold thy face again / Therefore take with thee my most grievous curse / Which in the day of battle tire thee more / Than all the complete armour that thou wear’st! / My prayers on the adverse party fight / And there the little souls of Edward’s children / Whisper the spirits of thine enemies / And promise them success and victory / Bloody thou art, bloody will be thy end / Shame serves thy life and doth thy death attend” (4.4.186-198). Richard III does not succeed in silencing his mother’s attacks with the sounding of drums (music); thus, he listens. It is almost as if his silence here tells us that he is considering her words, taking them to heart. The next scene, of course, is a discussion on matters of the heart, as if his mother’s curse is not only a prophesy for his ultimate demise, but also as a set-up for the ensuing dialogue between Richard III and Queen Elizabeth on his love for her daughter: “I mean that with my soul I love thy daughter / And do intend to make her Queen of England” (4.4.265-266).   

4. It is difficult to separate Richard Burbage’s original delivery of: “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” (5.3.361, 5.3.367) from the intensity of how the line is remembered, but the line itself returns us full-circle, back to the irony with which the play begins. Richard III was discontent during a time of great peace and celebration. At the beginning of the play his family was victorious, but he was: “Cheated of feature by dissembling nature / Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time / Into this breathing world, scarce half made up / And that so lamely and unfashionable / That dogs bark at me as I halt by them” (1.1.19 - 1.1.23). Here, Richard III’s lament that he was cheated out of his rightful inheritance (good looks, healthy body for wooing women) foreshadows his final lament that he was also cheated out of victory by a horse. In 2 Kings 23:11 it is writ: “He removed from the entrance to the temple of the LORD the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun. They were in the court near the room of an official named Nathan-Melek. Josiah then burned the chariots dedicated to the sun.” In this Biblical passage horses and chariots were being used in idolatrous processions, as noticed in regard to the sun. In the opening soliloquy of the play, the Duke of Gloucester states: “Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this son of York” (1.1.1-1.1.2). Metaphorically, Richard III destroys his entire family (the chariots) under his brother’s (son of York) sunny reign. He beings with the plural “we” and “our” and ends with the singular “my”, which speaks to his lament: “I shall despair. There is no creature loves me / And if I die, no soul shall pity me” (5.3.204-205). It is as if the play ends on the same ironic thread with which it begins, with false glory in relation the sun of York, King Edward IV.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Philosophy of Technology, Making Better Something We Haven't Yet Invented


Philosophy isn't always looking backwards. Sometimes it is arguing forward, and where better to argue than the subject of shoes; err, I mean, technology. My son just walked into my library took one look at these shoes (above) and said to me: "Men respond to cars the way women respond to shoes." 

And he's right. Well, mostly. But the one thing upon which both genders usually agree is the benefits of technology, or applied science. Technological advancement is what keeps contemporary society connected. Not only is technology a formidable economic force but it is a cultural and philosophical one, as well. 


Science is the concern of what is, whereas technology concerns itself with what is to be. Having worked with engineers for the last 20 years, I have heard it said this way: 

"Scientists want to figure out what's going on and how it works; engineers are busy figuring out how it ought to work, but better."

In other words, technology aims to change the world into what we most desire it to be. Theoretically, a future philosophy of technology will include questions about what drives the innovation process, the importance of brainstorming, the casual relationship between intuitive judgment and scientific methods on the basis of empirical evidence (or, that which is derived from data mining), and shoes, lots of shoes. 


Let us consider design; its process and the artefacts produced. If engineers are focused on problem solving, by design, then each new upgrade should theoretically address a specific problem encountered in daily life. This includes hunger and other aspects of inequality. Apps on how to grow your own food, DIY projects to improve your standard of living, and other life hacks would become piecemeal upgrades, a product of social engineering, as we think about how each component or feature will improve the lives of millions.  

Let us say for example that a team of experts figure out how to extend human life by two or three hundred years. Should they? Who decides? Who pays for the additional load on our planet's resources? A number of ethical themes arise before the design process. Do we design obsolescence into an object? If you own a GE appliance, you may already know the answer to this question. 

 
Responsibility has long since been a central theme in the ethics of technology. The traditional philosophy of ethics claims we are responsible for the technologies we develop. Is that not akin to saying that the engineer is guilty if his/her technology saves a person's life and that later that same person commits a crime? 

Philosophical questions lead to scientific theories and experiments, which then get developed into the technology upon which we rely. The philosophy of technology is essentially asking how to make better something we haven't yet invented.