The Nature of Truth II
March 5, 2017 § 3 Comments
The Sandman Postman
I want to add a couple of supplemental comments to yesterday’s essay entitled “The Nature of Truth”. Last night, as I slept, I received a telepathic message from some Indians who occupied most of the American continent when European intruders and explorers arrived and began populating it. The message was an angry response to my discussion of the cultural result of the advent of automobiles and trains as dominant means of transportation.
I described this cultural change as a result of the expanded area in which American people could easily travel. I compared it with the wagon and buggy days when that area was often a hundred miles or less from a person’s birthplace.[Probably an overestimate of the distance.]
The message I received from a delegation of Indians was, ” Your experience was different from ours. If those white people stayed within a hundred miles of where they were born, who the hell were all those people who showed up all over our hunting grounds, killing buffalo and hunting us like wild game, spreading smallpox and other diseases to kill those of us whom they didn’t shoot? They damn sure were more than a hundred miles from their birthplaces. They went everywhere.” I received his message because the space/time/continuum is inoperative when you sleep.
The Urge to Move
When I awoke, I realized I had failed to take into account what I learned from another professor at UT: Walter Webb, who spent most of his career documenting and analyzing the American frontier. So, I now wish to add a couple of qualifications to yesterday’s essay.
First, the European immigrants who populated the American continent brought with them a cultural understanding of territorial rights based on private ownership of specific fixed tracts of land. They saw America as a giant store where land was free for the taking. And, because the economy to which they were accustomed was primarily one based on farming and ranching, their goals were to find, occupy and establish a home on a specific tract. They were explorers and seekers but their goals were to settle down on their own property.
In other words, my argument yesterday was based on the mental reactions of those immigrants to achieving their goals. It did not mention or acknowledge their motivation to travel to the land they sought. It was this latter inclination that caused their culture to prove devastating to the culture of the Indians.
Most of the early American immigrants were from European countries, including England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Land ownership in those countries was generally controlled by various levels of royalty based on grants from kings and queens. Most of the population worked on the land based on various systems of serfdom.
Given these conditions, there were powerful temptations motivating those without personally owned land to immigrate to America and begin a quest for a place to settle. When I wrote that, once they found and settled on some land, where they raised their families, they typically were not motivated to stray far from home, I was referring to land owners, not land seekers. Also, when the automobile and train replaced the wagon and buggy, the frontier was closed. The last displacement of the Indians occurred in Oklahoma early in the 1900’s . The wagon and buggy displacement began about the same time, as Henry Ford began putting Americans behind the wheel of a black Model T Ford.
The Bhuddist Version of Jung’s Collective Unconscious
Another thing I neglected to mention in yesterday’s effort: One phenomenon I find interesting is the way ideas and frameworks for analyzing them seem to emerge, disappear and, later, sometimes centuries later, re-emerge clothed in different philosophical language but, still, very similar.
In yesterday’s essay I wrote about Carl Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious. I neglected to mention a corresponding idea based on a Buhddist doctrine. I don’t pretend to be a serious student of Buddhist theology but, many years ago, i read about a Buddhist doctrine to which I was attracted. Some Buddhists believe when a person dies, a spark representing his being returns to a limitless repository of all life. And when a person is born he is vivified by a spark from that same source. The nature of the new being is affected by the manner in which its previous life as another being lived. This is not reincarnation, as in Hindu theology. It does teach that successive episodes of life on Earth and the behavior of the person who lives it determine whether the next episode will be closer to or further from the ultimate end of the process, when a person reaches Nirvana, described in the reading I have done as “the absence of desire”.
I understand this as a form of immortality. I am not a believer in any form of religion but I have spent time thinking about religious ideas. Several decades ago Beverly and I attended a few days of lectures in Tarrytown New York. One of the lecturers was Joseph Campbell. He spent a lifetime writing and talking about the religions and myths and folk tales of different cultures. I was able to talk to him about religion and immortality. He told me, “Don’t be bothered because no form of religion suits you. No one knows anything about immortality. Different religions choose different metaphors to express their choices of beliefs in ideas that are beyond actual human knowledge. So, you can choose your own metaphor, one that satisfies you. You are not bound by the choices of others.”
Like everyone else, I have no personal knowledge of any truth about immortality. I long ago decided I could not embrace the ideas based on claims of divine disclosure to a preacher or priest. I do believe it is natural for human beings, including me, to speculate about what happens after they die. I have accepted the probability that nothing happens but I have no more basis for that assumption than for any other. So, I have found Campbell’s advice to be reassuring and comforting.
The Buddhist idea is attractive to me because it is not hopeless, it does not depend on hostility toward any other religious idea and it resembles the ideas of Carl Jung, whose ideas are interesting and are based on actual scientific research.
Finally, as I write this I realize that some readers may conclude that I have achieved the pinnicle of hypocrisy: The hypocritical doubter. All I can say is that I have never claimed consistency, only honesty.
PS: I have revisited yesterday’s “The Nature of Truth” and found several grammatical mistakes, misspellings and some sloppy sentence structure. I have made corrections I hope will make it more understandable. I know this is too late for most of my readers but it , at least, eases my embarrassment.