Monday, August 12, 2013

The Three Most Dangerous Ideas

It's been a long time...

Well, here's something that came to mind and got onto the Want-To-Share list.

A bit of background.

I have this friend. Known him for longer than just abut anybody in Australia. In fact, the only person I've known longer is dead. That kind of puts my buddy, let's call him 'K', into the 'oldest living friend' category. He's almost exactly one year younger than I.

K has worked for all his life like a fiend. Now he's 'retired', a concept I find incomprehensible, as it implies that one's basically waiting for death. Well, I suppose, we all are in some way, whether it comes after the next heartbeat or in a much further-away future. But retirement seems to kind-of make it explicit As a seriously 'do-not-go-gentle' kind of guy, I'm not in that mind-set. In fact, I'd prefer not to go at all.

K has been 'creative' throughout his life. I'm not sure I can relate to the kinds of things he's spent his creativity on (much of it was in the public service, serving politicians), but that's none of my business. To each his own. I respect people's choices; mainly since I would like them to respect mine. Tit for tat.

In retirement, K's creative outlets have lain fallow. He immerses himself in activities, making himself so busy that he hasn't got time to breathe, but I know he's not happy doing what he's doing. (I know, I know: who is 'happy' anyway? And is happiness really a goal to aim for? A topic for another time. Maybe.) In fact, I think it's killing him; that and the smoking, which he's been trying to give up more times than I can count.

But creativity is something you can't keep down. Once you're in the habit of it (and yes, there's something like a 'habit of creativity', which is more addictive than smoking), you can't break it; unless you kill yourself, either physically or spiritually. And so, K nowadays is creative by having ideas. He just can't help it. They keep on coming. Good ideas and less edifying ideas. Most interestingly, ideas about stories that might make it into novels or screenplays. But ideas they are. No follow-through though, because somehow that's not just in him anymore.

I found myself getting angry thinking of all this. Why? Because I look at my friend and I get sad and frustrated and ultimately angry at the waste of it all. The waste of a life, which is slowly fading away, with those ideas just coming our of nowhere, only to become just another idea that'll eventually (as will all human ideas, of course) be dissipate in the endless sea of the ultimately-dying universe, together with everything that the uncounted billions, and maybe eventually even trillions, of human beings were, are and will be. Forgotten, dispersed, become nothingness.

But, damn it, until that happens, how about we shout as loud as we can and even though our defiance may be futile, it is defiance and an affirmation of our being alive.

Back to ideas, which is what this blog was supposed to be all about. Because as I was listenting to K yesterday, it suddenly occurred to me that while ideas may be powerful, some are more so than others; and I wondered what the most powerful ideas might be. And then I realized that maybe 'powerful' is harder to figure out than another category, namely 'dangerous'. In terms of human life in our world, what are the ideas that are most dangerous, in the sense that they carry within them the greatest potential for good and evil alike? The ideas that infuse the Force with power, that stir human beings into action; which, when abused, have the potential to do untold harm; and yet, in their highest expression, represent the very best our humanity has to offer.

And this, after some thought, are my top three; not in order of importance, because I'm not presumptuous enough to think I can make that judgement.

All of these ideas are at their core anti-authoritarian, anti-religious, anti-statist and focused on the individual.

Idea #1 is the concept of 'true love'.

Yeah, I know, this is Princess Bride stuff, but so bite me! It's all profound anarchistic, the notion that the obligations of love for another person (or persons) trump all the rules imposed by societies, states, ideologies, religions and what-have-you. This relates closely to...

Idea #2 is the concept of 'individual freedom' or 'liberty'.

Note that this is the 'negative' version liberty, that is, freedom from something (as opposed to its strange complement, 'positive' liberty, this being the freedom to do something.

Idea #3 is the notion that as individuals and physical beings we should live for as long as we choose, instead of being subjected to the whims of what biology appears to dictate.

This is closely associated with the idea of individual freedom, since it implies freedom from the necessity to die as ordained by evolution or by obstacles put in the way of this by others for whatever reason.

As I said before, I'm not offering a judgment on these ideas or their consequences; just as food for thought.

I know there are considerably more powerful ideas. For example the idea of 'God' in whatever incarnation (all equally daft) is very powerful indeed. It's also dangerous, but in a different way, mainly because it's grown to such monstrous proportions.

The first two ideas I mentioned on the other hand, can never become that way, because they are, in their very nature, inherently incompatible with such a development. In contrast, the last one might, one of these days, grow to significant size. In the process it will inevitably subvert fundamental assumptions about, and views of, ourselves as human beings. Should be interesting...

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