The Blue Baron



Poe and Van Gogh   March 2018

I remember some time past, after a period of Poe studies, I began to write something comparing and contrasting Poe and his French protege Baudelaire. I even drew a couple of pictures of the two and I'm sure I wrote something but it never made it to completion and I'm not even sure I could find it now. Of late I've been busy with a Van Gogh study and although I haven't refreshed my Poe knowledge in 20 years, I'm hoping I can make some worthwhile commentary here. If I make mistakes of minutia, please forgive, as I'm going strictly from memory and haven't the time for fact checking. If present, these will have little effect on my insights overall. Keep in mind that Poe died four years before Van Gogh was born, so one an early 19th century figure, the other a late 19th inhabitant. They were separated by continents, circumstances and milieus. Would they have been fast friends? Unlikely. Nevertheless, there seems a kinship between the two icons of 19th century Art and it may be for all the wrong reasons. I'll attempt to shed some light.

I think when the phrase "starving artist" is mentioned it most probably, intuitively or subconsciously, conjures up our subjects. If anything I'd guess Poe the poorer of the two as he had no one supporting him - he had no kind hearted brother and although Van Gogh was penurious - he could usually count on shelter, a bit of food, paints and easels, absinthe and the occasional franc or two for a cheap prostitute. Poe had less and apparently no need for ladies of the night - writing is also a much cheaper passion as pen and paper undercuts the painter's acoutrements by some distance. Both men went hungry but often for different reasons. Van Gogh often chose hunger, just as he chose to cut off his ear (if true) and chose to shoot himself in the abdomen (also if true). Whether he did these two or not he definitely went hungry, went shoeless, slept outdoors in cold or on hard surfaces to punish himself - at least during his early christian period of missionary zeal. He was a 19th century flagellant and chose at various times to punish himself either through his extreme version of downtrodden Christianity or in later life over the relentless guilt of depending on his brother for income. He battled with self hatred throughout his short life. Poe, on the other hand, had no such propensity. Not only did he have nothing but disdain for religion but considered himself an aristocrat and believed he deserved to live like one. His forced poverty and lack of respect are what produced his vitriol - not guilt or some metaphysical notion of moral purity. He was wronged whereas Van Gogh wronged himself - in the Dutchman's eyes he was the sinner. Both, of course, died young and under mysterious circumstances, adding to their outsider allure. Both had high strung nervous temperaments and an unusual attraction to the darkside. Without either fellow, the world would be a much duller place.

Suffering

Both of these artists took suffering to its extremes. Their lives were short and tortured. Poe died in a Baltimore gutter under mysterious circumstances at the age of 40 and Van Gogh at 37 of a supposed self inflicted gunshot wound. Poe was always on the verge of starving and never made any money to speak of. Oh he got some paltry wages at his various editing jobs but was often jobless and trying to make a living as a writer (in that epoch especially) was well, insane, by all normal accountings. He sold some writings for tiny sums but as no copyright laws existed at the time - he got nothing for subsequent sales. Poe married his cousin and Van Gogh tried to marry his as well but she refused. I guess it was rather an incestuous world back then.

Of all the mental health diagnoses of Vincent, the ones I most agree with are temporal lobe epilepsy and Asperger's. I wouldn't be suprised with a bipolar diagnoses either but I'd reject schizophrenia outright. One must also take into account Vincent's imbibing of absinthe and even sucking on his lead based paint inadvertently, not to mention a dreadful diet and inhalation of too much tobacco smoke. The late 19th century isn't exactly known for its great medical practices so we're dealing with some peripheral contributors here in our 125 year diagnosis. He certainly had mental health issues and periodic psychosis which I attribute mostly to the epilepsy. Both he and his brother had syphillis as did many at this time and of course that caused great pain and deterioration. But of all the ideas I find the possibility of Van Gogh's diagnoses being on the Autism spectrum the most compelling. Nobody liked Vincent and that isn't so much hyperbole. And don't tell me about Gaugin. He only moved to Arles to please Theo who was selling his wares. He didn't want to slay the golden goose. I don't even think he had much admiration for Vincent's work, always cajoling him to work more like himself. In reality, Gaugin was an upleasant Narcissist, a very poor trait for meshing with the likes of Vincent. Even Theo could only tolerate Vincent at times and felt familial duty - although he knew he was a genuine person at heart and a very sensitive one, he was simply too ardent and awkward and combative to deal with. He couldn't hold his tongue when it was probably best to resist. Diplomat would not have been a good career for him. If a work of art sucked, he would tell a patron just that and of course that's not a great sales technique. If someone attacked his painting in whatever manner, he of course took it personally, and fired back. When women spurned him, he broke down like a child. He came on too strong, he felt too deeply. He was very in touch with his own emotions but as is often said of the personality type INFP to which Vincent has been assigned, he wasn't necessarily in tune with the emotions of others and perhaps especially unable to read emotional cues as an aspie. This can result in shunning. People, especially without understanding of origins, can be incredibly cruel - especially the young. Vincent wanted companionship but seemsed to sabotage it each time it presented itself. I think the Asperger's speculative post-diagnosis is very insightful and likely accurate. It explains a lot. Some people said he was ugly, now I don't see an ugly man in his self portraits, but more of a typical redheaded Dutchman, his manner may have skewed people against him but even if he was unattractive, so what, so are most people and they get through life without incredible antipathy. It seems the poor guy was far different on the inside than the out but he couldn't escape his external presentation. Again I have to think Asperger's is the best explanation.

Another checkbox in the Aspie camp is the incredible focus and fanaticism with which Vincent went about his paintings - he would paint the same scene or figure ten times despite admonitions from others to move forward and create something salable. In fact, paean's to salability often had the stubborn, adverse effect - as he would continue to paint the dark peasant scenes that no one was buying. His incredible output also shows uncommon focus and even OCD tendencies which I believe is also common with Aspies. Again, speculation I know, but it gives one pause. We mustn't forget another likely impetus that spurred both men - namely labor. Work is an escape, Poe's meticulous stories and Vincent's dense paintings required tremendous, painstaking effort which temporarily assuaged the poverty, illness, depression, loneliness and other terrible psychological plights.

Poe, in contrast, had different problems, although some diagnose him with the same illnesses prescribed Vincent, bipolar and temporal lobe epilespy. This is certainly a possibility but Poe definitely wasn't an Aspie. Besides those possibilities, he may have suffered from what they called neurasthenia in the 19th century, which today we might call ADHD or something. He was highly excitable, high strung, super sensitive and sometimes irritable or melancholic. Poe could be quiet, hard working and abstemious, to use his word, a great word indeed. It seems only under the influence of drink did the pent-up frustrations and bitterness explode. Van Gogh had similar explosions and they both carried a lot of bitterness within - Poe for being left destitute by his step father - Van Gogh for being shunned everywhere and harboring the excruciating guilt of being supported essentially his whole life by his brother. Both men were also pretty effective at self sabotage. Vincent balked when opportunities arose to show his work and Poe ensured failure when he showed up at an interview for a government job drunk that would have given him the security he lacked. He also carried on literary feuds with those in a position to help him. Van Gogh did the same with influential artists. Both men were aware of their destructive tendencies even if powerless to stop them. Poe even wrote a story about it called the "Imp of the Perverse" - the idea that one does something precisely because that doing is one's biggest fear; like screaming in Church or hurling yourself off a building. Both these gentlemen's lives show much evidence of this "imp". Why would these brilliant, sensitive, talented men do such a thing? Somewhere deep in their subconscious they didn't want to succeed and it would take all the resources of Freud, Jung and Piaget to offer a fully-formed and satisfying explanation. The obvious answer is low self esteem but I think it goes deeper than that. I'll leave the issue to the psychologists and the philosophers. Suffice it to say these great artists suffered physically, mentally and emotionally - the majority not being self-inflicted. They were ahead of their time - they are the poster boys for the iconic symbolist idea - ironically birthed by Poe - that they were too bright, sensitive, imaginative and talented for the masses of the asses to understand...

Erudition

Most would expect Poe, a 19th century Man of Letters, to be well read and he was, astonishingly so I would guess. His placement of Latin and Greek phrases throughout his writings is an indicator as is his insightful, learned criticism. Not widely known for his critiques, this alone would be enough to make him famous as he was a tremendous influence on subsequent literary criticism and was the inspiration for the Symbolist school which was later championed by Baudelaire. Poe was fond of and familiar with Dickens and even famously correctly predicted the plot turns of Barnaby Rudge in advance of its serialized releases. In a pre-digital world, mindless distractions weren't available so one would expect reading to be a common pasttime, at least among the more contemplative introverted types.

But it wouldn't be a natural assumption to assume a painter to be well read. Van Gogh was exceptionally so. He was schooled in the Bible, Shakespeare, Balzac, Hugo, Dickens, George Eliot, Whitman, Mauppasant and many others that we would today called "classics". Ironically enough, I haven't any evidence that he read Poe - his artistic twin across the pond. I do recall that Gaugin may have discussed Poe with Van Gogh. Perhaps Van Gogh had heard of Poe's works but didn't think they'd appeal to him - not quite his style - or he feared Poe might drive him into the Nut house sooner. We'll never know.

Naturally Van Gogh's extensive reading influenced his work. He identified with the outcasts, the loners, the shunned, the spurned - being especially fond of Hugo's anti-heroes. This is evident in his decade long obsession with peasants culminating in the "Potatoe Eaters". He portrayed the downtrodden and the overworked and the despairing and to him they were icons - eternal symbols rather than individuals - types - always reaching for the infinite out of the ordinary. He was a man of letters literally - with hundreds to his brother Theo. Van Gogh painted, read, wrote, smoked and longed for companionship - which was always fleeting and elusive. Poe's literary influences seemed few. His originality was so striking that it's hard to find precedents. He was familiar with the German fantasist E.T.A Hoffman and may have enjoyed Wilkie Collins and Anne Radcliffe but even here - his departures are striking. Reading, even in an analog age, is more indicative of personality type than cultural milieu. Readers are questers after knowledge, truth, escape and imaginary worlds. It's also a refuge for those with few intellectual peers. Poe critiqued many a poor forgotten writer in additon to the stalwarts of his day - Longellow, Thoreau and Emerson among them. He acerbically attacked some disengenuously, no doubt as a result of a real or perceived slight, but in the whole his criticism was spot on, extremely insightful and intellectually rigorous. He obviously toiled over many a midnight dreary.

Drugs

I think the alcohol and drug use attributed to both of these giants is exaggerated. The idea that you can be violently altered while creating works of extreme beauty is absurd. If anything, the use of any substance is typically after the work day is done and it's time to relax and decompress a bit. Sure one might write some decent stream of consciousness poetry while high on marijuana or write with a certain frantic energy when mildly stimulated by alcohol but in general, great works are done in the light of day with a clear and conscious mind. Van Gogh said as much, he told Theo he couldn't paint when under the throes of a prolonged pyschotic episode. His mental illness was a drawback not an attribute.

None other than the world's foremost Poe scholar, one Thomas Mabbott, declared Poe was nothing else if not a conscious artist - with his constant reworking and synthesizing. You don't create either "Ligieia" or "The Drawbridge at Arles" without fully focused faculties and intense concentration. Vincent was an imbiber of absinthe and modern studies have indicated the amount of wormwood present is miniscule and the overwhelming affect is simply one of astonishing drunkenness as it was a very powerful elixir. He talked of overindulging sometimes to his brother Theo but again, one can't be smashed and create "Starry Night over the Rhone". We must also keep in mind Vincent was said to sometimes inadvertenly suck on his paint brushes and may have even consumed paint and/or turpentine during psychotic episodes and we know he smoked a pipe a lot. His diet would have also often been inconsistent, intermittent, inadequate and insufficient. Add all these together and you have a pretty toxic stew but the tremendous amount of walking he did combined with his vast time spent in the open air probably offset his negative health habits to an extent.

Poe, again in contrast, couldn't afford alchohol or tobacco on any regular basis. What seems evident is when he did indulge and publicly, his nervous system was so sensitive that it lit him up quite swiftly and dramatically. If his life had been a happy one and he was ensconsed in a mansion living the life of a nobleman, the affects of alcohol may have turned him into a happy and dramatic entertainer but in his real world of poverty, neglect and disrespect - the injury was too great and he lashed out at his tormentors and of course this caused greater suffering as a result. It appears Poe went on binges and often ended up in stupors but this may have resulted from a modern diagnosis of diabetes in which the blood sugar roller coaster caused by alcohol consumption ensured his predicament - this same diabetic induced stupor may have been what killed him. In essence, both men indulged in alcohol and other substances at times, and certainly overindulged on occasions but not necessarily in a very different way from many of their time and in fact any time. Their brilliance was in no way attributable to intoxicants but in reality, in spite of them.

Suicide

Conventional wisdom holds that Van Gogh shot himself in the stomach and Poe died from an alcohol overdose. Both are probably wrong. Van Gogh may have used an accident to end his suffering when he considered it morally wrong to do so himself. Whether he was shot by a cruel careless youth or it was some sort of accident after a struggle, we'll never know. But for Van Gogh, who knew nothing of guns, to shoot himself in the abdomen seems quite unlikely. It makes a great end for a crazy artist story though and part of the reason it's stuck for so long. He declared many times to his brother his opposition to offing himself and even if he succumbed to the moral degradation, he surely would have chosen a different method. And who shoots themselves in the stomach? Very few obviously. We'll never know the truth but you don't head to the wheat fields with a painter's repertoire to kill yourself with otherwise no indications of a meltdown. And what happened to his gear? Apparently it disappeared. Hmmm, seems suspsicious doesn't it? Once the deed was done - with lifeline brother Theo, dying of syphillis with a wife and child in tow, not only was the guilt overwhelming but he knew his means of survival was soon coming to an end. A perfect time to take advantage of the crazy accident of a reckless youth.

Poe, in a not completely disimilar situation, ends up moaning in a Baltimore gutter wearing someone else's soiled clothes. Very strange. I can't think of any reason he would change into the dirty clothes of a derelict. Now it must be noted that due to poverty, Poe's clothes may have been worn and fraying but he would have comported himself in the best possible manner because remember, he considered himself an aristocrat. This suggests to me some sort of subterfuge. Was he duped into free drinks by some enemies and then beaten and robbed? I recall that his valise was also missing. Was he drugged and then changed to hinder identification or evidence? Like Van Gogh, we will never know but it lends itself well to an alternate fiction. These deaths, by whatever circumstances, lent themselves perfectly to the myth of the starving, suffering, misundestood artist and only through the tragedy of their lives do they leave behind the beauty that the rest of us get to enjoy. Perhaps the suffering artist isn't a myth after all..

Recognition

Poe knew he was good, how could he not? An intellect of his largesse has rarely been witnessed, an imagination like his unequalled. Few have balanced the wild creative outburst of the artists brain with the cool calculating mind of the scientist. Way ahead of his time, it seems his lyrically appealing poem "The Raven" was all that was really appreciated in his lifetime. It was a big hit but it garnered nothing. His stinging but usually accurate criticism brought him only enemies. Poe was a man alone in America.

It doesn't appear obvious to me that Van Gogh thought he was good. Of different minds at different times, it seems he didn't see the quality of his works even though he may have subconsciously believed in them. Both men used their art to escape but for Van Gogh it seems the more essential. Without painting, and the temporary reprieve it allowed from his suffering, guilt and shame; his suicide may have otherwise occurred at age twenty. Also ahead of his time, the one painting brother Theo sold was to a young female art student seeming at least partially motivated by charity. His painting was cathartic in that it allowed expression to the demons within. On some level, although this changed due to his unrelenting guilt, he didn't care if he sold his paintings. He painted to live, not from the proceeds, but from the panacea - painting was his heartbeat.

Now one journalist raved about Van Gogh's works the last year or so of his life and he was beginning to be recognized, and of this he seemed to have mixed feelings. On the one hand, he felt some justification for finally getting some recognition but on the other, he didn't want the publicity and on some level, still didn't think he was good enough. It reminds me of Jack Kerouac's reply when asked what fame meant. He said it was "like old newspapers blowing down Bleeker Street". Whatever the case, a brief fleeing fame without sales wasn't enough to redirect Vincent's fortunes or attitude and he was gone soon thereafter.

The Universe as a Fluke   June 2018

The laws of physics have always existed. They manifest as potential energy and interact randomly. They have no consciousness or purpose. They exist outside of space and time in a cosmic dance and whenever a random event creates a spark - not unlike the spontaneous combustion of the oily rag in the closet - the spark is quickly extinguished by its counterpart and the binary universe of on-off zero-one yin-yang remains. Somehow, after a rather more forceful brane instigation, or the inevitable anomaly of mathematical randomness, the usual short song and dance was disrupted by a lone spark, a rebel without a cause, a spontaneous leap in which the haves outpaced the have nots, the mods overcame the rockers; the symmetry of the mirror image was broken and the universe and time were born. Some instant after the infusion or the quantum tunneling or the spark or the twinge or the spasm, the equanamity of low entropy was expunged and the upstart rogue called matter escaped the binary cancellation effect of its counterpart anti-matter and Pandora's box was opened. This had happened a zillion times before and the overload was quickly quelled. In fact, contrary to the fatuous statement one often hears, especially from athletes, that "everything happens for a reason", the fact of the matter is "nothing happens for a reason". This fluke, this crack in the cosmic mirror, this anomaly of anomalies, is the reason a grandmother knits a sweater on her front porch in the gloaming of a Wichita evening. Not only is the universe as it came to be, a fluke, but life itself is a rare emergence, especially conscious or technological life which, in my view, has happened only once in the history of the vast universe. A random mathematical condition was ultimately met (perhaps inevitably) in the bubbling cauldron of potential energy to jump-start the universe and the ignition switch was turned as matter formed and jumped out to an early advantage. If this never happened none would be the wiser.

Equilibrium

The laws of physics inherently seek to return to the state of equilibrium - their nature commands it - but it's got a battle on its hands. It seeks the 50-50 low entropy default position but since matter has run amok it will take time, a great deal of time, to counteract. On a univeral scale it's the yin and the yang, dark matter versus dark energy, a balanced equation, this is what the laws seek - in our world it projects for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and even good vs evil for lack of better words. The laws of physics govern our lives and in our small closed pocket of increasing complexity - our nondescript star and vibrant solar system bound by gravity - in the massive stew of increasing entropy our tiny window of life and the life of our species has not, so far, been able to have true and sustained progress because of the laws of physics. We are currently in a standoff between run away entropy and the temporary defense posture of our closed off solar system. We're in a temporary state of balance of which the defendent, the counterpuncher - is trying to overcome. The universe doesn't care about a few million years but that's enough to be the end of our species. Our fight for the good, the yin, dark matter, anti-matter has so far always ended in a tie and when we return to primitive conditions we start all over. Progress has so far always been temporary or confined to specific areas, technology or medicine for example. But one turn in fortunes, one natural disaster, one global war - all can be wiped out in an istant. If we have had the delusion of progress, a correction quickly sets that to rights. During the universes quest to return to its womb, its equilibrium, its statis, its benign non-existence - it is also going through a process of self-discovery although this isn't inherent or intentional. In this picaresque journey, a macroscopic version of our human lives, it learns along the way before it returns to its blissful non-state, which like ours will be death. So in certain parts of a closed system, where entropy hasn't full ascended, there will be a battle but it will be a standoff for perhaps quite a long time, so how this manifests in human life is in the one step forward, one step back reality that we often face or better yet - the law of unintended consequences. An example in our modern world: a driven maniac builds the first smart phone and it brings GPS and information and entertainment and knowledge to our fingertips instantaneously yet its counterpart, the force fighting against - whatever it may be called - creates delusional children without human contact, instantaneous obscenity, cyberbullying and social media that creates easy rioting and divisiveness and contempt at the click of a button. Neither side wins, the yin-yang is maintained and might be for millions of years.

Birth

Something is more natural than nothing. Something is also unstable. Tiny quarks and virtual particles flitted in and out of existence in a condition not unlike boiling water. Little explosions occurred and minor upstart energy bursts were quickly put to rest and annihilated by their anti-counterpart. This bubbling cauldron existed like an Edgar Allan Poe lyric "out of space, out of time". Each Yin was met by its Yang, each quark by its anti-quark, each pre-matter particle by its pre anti-matter, each insurrection by a counter insurgency, the battle waged in a state of stasis, equilibrium - volatile but without expression, energetic but without form, unconscious but inherently mathematical, a frolic of the eternal state of something that was quantumly close to nothing - as there were no observers. All this, and here we're not allowed to use time references, did it's non-thing over and over until a magic blip went uncancelled, an eruption went unanswered, a volley went unreturned, a fluke categorically just a bit above impossible ignited like a twig in the desert. In this unyielding cauldron, this benign stew of potential, somehow someway, in the coincidence of all coincidences, energy ignited and the universal laws began engineering a coalescence we call matter that for the first time - outnumbered its anti-matter twin - and our universe was born.

Unconscious

The released energy is not conscious but seeks it's former equilibrium through interactions governed by mathematical laws. There is no plan, no predetermination, no deity controlling things. There is only nature and its laws in a self-generated experiment. No consciousness would create a universe as ridiculously massive and inert as the one we find ourselves in. It may be 99.9% lifeless. If something created it with a purpose surely a few stars and solar systems would do the trick and at the outset a galaxy. What would possibly require more than a galaxy to enact some sort of test or trial. It's absurdly large expanse is proof of its lack of a conscious creator. Nothing in supreme control would be so wasteful and inefficient. Nature's eternal mathematical Platonic constructs happened upon a fluke vibration and the dance began. It didn't know if life would arise or self-consciouness might develop or that a species would create advanced technologies, it knew only laws, entropy, mathematical frameworks and potential. Its nature seeks return, return to that beautiful equation of the static universe.

Godless and Pointless

Why would anything in control make it so creatures eat each other to survive? (Source: Oriana Fallaci). Who would allow mass genocide, murder, rape, disease, deformities, still births, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes etc. not to mention rats, roaches, snakes, stench and filth and the unimaginable suffering caused therein. Who would allow hard working species to go extinct like many of our very own ancestors who no longer grace the earth. Do they have a soul? Did the Neanderthal have a soul? At what point in the evolution from amoeba to man do we get to have a soul? Are we the only ones allowed in heaven but Neanderthal doesn't make the cut? What about our current cousins the great apes, do they get a free pass? On what date is the soul implanted? Can you now see the arbitrariness and absurdity of our belief in our own specialness in a universe that doesn't care. If an asteroid hits the earth tomorrow and wipes us all out, is there a god somewhere that's going to care? Let's accept the truth as stated by Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg. To paraphrase "the universe is pointless". Nuff said.

Only Life

It seems insane but I wouldn't be surprised if earth had the only life in the universe. It almost sounds like a religious declaration except its not. My best guess is that there is life in the universe but not in the teeming millions that even seemingly intelligent scientists speculate. The life that exist might be largely bacterial or amoebal or in other primitive forms. If you succeed in an environment that is relatively static there's little pressure to change. It also wouldn't surprise me if more advanced or even intelligent life forms evolved elsewhere but as far as technological life, and this is a big distinction here, the kind of technological life that can harness electromagnetism (like us) I think it quite likely we are the only ones. I don't think people appreciate the kind of luck and close calls we've had that have allowed us to get to this point. I've read (Source: Paul Davies) that we were likely down to a few dozen individuals at one point and could have and still might - be wiped out by asteroids or disease or war or famine or other unforeseens. Not only that but to be a planet luckily not bombarded by life killing radiation and having the luck of a magnetic field that scatters said radiationt - that is an enormous piece of luck that helps explain why we're here today. For all these fortuitous circumstances to happen on another world is highly unlikely. Even though there is a ridiculous number of planets in the universe, again to what point?, we've aleady discovered hundreds, probably thousands and even though we call a few in the goldilocks zone, we still have no evidence of life. Zero. How common is water?, ideal temperatures, lack of powerful radiation, freedom from asteroids?, competition and the pressure of natural selection? Again we don't know but I think it naive to guess on the side of fecundity when all current evidence points to the opposite. Even if all these wonderful things come together as they have in one known spot in the universe, a creature with limbs and on land is still required. How likely is this? Dolphins or squid may be as intelligent as us but dolphins have no limbs to create a tool outside of themselves and even if squids wanted to, building a stable technology in water is nearly impossible. Advanced technology needs a land creature and how common are these in the universe? Again, who knows, but my guess is if life exists most of it is underwater and essentially on lockdown in its fluid environment. So you need land creatures with limbs and the forces to evolve intelligence which is no guarantor of success. A lot of what ifs here, flukes, fortuities, happenstances and incredible luck. Multiple planet yielding life forms may be too much to ask (multiple technological intelligences) even in an infinite universe since it appears 99.9% of all matter is lifeless and therefore useless.

Return

So the beginning of the universe was due to a break in equilibrium or yin yang or binary stasis and since its genesis, the laws of nature seek to return to that preferred low entropy virtual energy state. The universe will either neuter matter's one upsmanship vis a vis anti-matter by achieving maximum entropy and hence declawing matter so to speak or will return to something approaching its initial state through a big crunch by the overpowering of dark matter. Regardless, along this very long drawn out ride, there will be locales where for extremely long periods of time - a solar system or group of stars or even a galaxy or galaxies - will remain in a dead even battle between the forces of equilibrium, the yin-yang or zero-one such that for every action there is an equal an opposite reaction. Physics. Two to Tango. In other words, for periods of time that might as well be infinite for a short lived species like ourselves, the unyielding laws of physics may prevent, at least for any significant length of time, real sustained human progress. This is an idea that demands exposition. No one in their right mind would deny the technological progress of the last century or two, it goes without mentioning, but what has been its costs? We know there's been great advances in medicine, and big strides in space exploration and giant leaps in gadgetry and startling advances in communication but on the downside let's consider the following - at currently 7.6 billion personnes we are stressing the world's resources, the biggest problem may not be global warming or plastics pollution but a shrinking of the water tables for example. I needn't extrapolate on what a scarce quantity of potable water would mean for our avaricious species. Wars rage, diseases spread, terrorism escalates, mass murder trends - contempt is at an all time high. Which side is winning? There has been progress in the past - all of which at some point reverted, de-evolved, digressed, returned to primitivism. One must take a Macro perspective, peaks and valleys aren't steady progressions. That old saying "bomb you back to the stone age" comes to mind.

Renaissance

This condition, in which human progress is categorically denied over the long haul because of the laws of physics, is not an excuse to sit back and do nothing and say "Woe is me". Since the universe deals in millions of years and we deal in decades, we could perhaps sustain long periods where we are progressing and growing and changing and advancing and truly creating a great place to experience life - and besides - we have little choice but to claw and fight like all animals do. If a global cataclysm is going to occur in 1000 years we still must do our best to make those thousand years the greatest ever. If human lack of foresight causes disasters and reduces our numbers exponentially we still have the obligation to rise and fight again. Remember, nature is not something to be unreservedly worshipped but instead, a force to be overcome. Perhaps someday we'll be able to tweak the fundamental laws of physics in our favor and enjoy a few million years where the yin is in favor over the yang and along the way enjoy a great human renaissance until the inevitable end; the destruction and return to stasis that the universe's core physical principles demand.

Bottom Line

The suppositions stated herein are my thoughts - thoughts based on a lifetime of experience, moderate educational attainment, respectable scientific literacy and most of all - intuition. I see us as all having equal opportunities when it comes to metaphysics. The bottom line is, nobody knows what the hell is going on. Anyone can speculate on why, as long as the laws of physics and knowledge of science is respected. Remember, this thesis is inspired somewhat by Edgar Poe's Eureka - that great misunderstood missive where the literary Giant states that his mystical attempts at communion with universal law is exclusively a result of intuition - in his case in the form of a prose poem - in mine - a rambling essay. Now most people will say who cares? and well, most people will not care, but for the few that do, the implications are obvious. We can build a robust and moral world based on our own ingenuity, we needn't rely on delusion, iron age fictions or handed down mythologies. This life is what we should concentrate on, and while we'll never achieve a Utopia and our ultimate destination is annihilation, like our parent solar system and universe, yet we still might get in a mighty good run. We're already at a couple of hundred thousand years. We could last for a million or heaven forbid, a billion, that I honestly doubt but the point is, we may have a long time to make life on earth or wherever we inhabit, a truly grand experience. This is something we can do, we must do, what's in our nature to do and is a moral imperative to do - so let's take it on with resolution. It won't be easy as 99.9% of the human race prefers magical thinking to reason and it will be hard to get this percentage to budge but the .1% has always driven us forward - has led us out of the caves - and gave us the enlightenment. Yet all can be for nought if we allow the irrational to seize power and propagate their delusions - as has often happened in the past - and is arguably happening as I type. It's good news folks, we can be the masters of our own destiny, it's time to grab the elephant by the tusks and move forward as a society and species, if nothing else it will be a great ride!


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