Tuesday, April 26, 2011


It is a commonplace that relativisms of whatever variety-- ethical, epistemological, cultural, what have you-- tend strongly toward radical incoherence and self-refutation. Indeed, if by relativism you really genuinely truly mean relativism-- and not just that life is subtle and nuanced and very, very difficult to untangle-- then I suspect you cannot possibly avoid being incoherent and self-refuting.

Nonetheless, relativism is popular, and it continues to gain ground among intelligentsia and grass roots alike. I suspect this has little or nothing to do with the merits of relativism, which are nil, and much to do with the convenience of a rhetorical posture which bids fair to disarm one's opponents unilaterally by intellectual fiat.

In other words, your truth is relative, for all truth is relative without exception; while my truth somehow mysteriously remains tacitly exempt from the corrosions of the universal solvent, at least as long as I'm on the side of the relativists! Relativism, like any system of patronage, is rife with corruption and graft; but for this very reason it can prove profitable to those who embrace it, and to their cronies.

What I find most revealing is that many who are relativists on cosmic questions are absolutists when it comes to political matters. Which makes no sense whatsoever: I mean, if truth is absolute as concerns the merits of the green team versus the blue team at the hippodrome, then truth can hardly be relative as concerns the sun and moon and the starry sky above. But a convenient and profitable incoherence is the first refuge of scoundrels, who've placed a hefty bet on the green team to win, even if it means fixing the race.

Me, I'll just settle for the ancient notion that truth is absolute, but life is subtle and nuanced and very, very difficult to untangle.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I was up in the middle of the night, three-in-the-morningish, with insomnia. And so I lay there on the sofa in the dark, websurfing on my laptop. Cruising among various sites, discussion forums, reading the usual, often angry, often less than insightful back-and-forth that is ubiquitous online.

A window directly into the heart and soul of nameless grass-roots Joe Sixpacks out there. A window which can be accessed instantly, even lying on my living room sofa in the dark, bleary eyed at 3 AM. A window (it suddenly occurred to me) which could scarcely have been opened at all, even with concerted effort in broad daylight, only a generation ago.

I think back 25 and 30 years ago. The only voices in the culture at that time were those which made it past various gatekeepers: editors, publishers, mass-media broadcasters. If you weren't part of that vetted and modulated mainstream, you had little way of making your viewpoint heard at all. Truly fringe voices, if they could be found at all, were found only after concerted searching, and then likely either in mimeograph format, or in pamphlets handed out on an urban street corner.

Voices which today can be easily accessed even at three in the morning by someone lying there half awake in the dark.

What a revolution has been wrought over this past generation... It probably comes too late to make much difference: open window or no, our culture has entered its endgame. That too is a development which has become more and more obvious over the past generation. But to the degree that anything can yet be done at all, Joe Sixpack is in the mix, unfiltered; and there's nothing any gatekeepers can do about it any more. Joe Sixpack: often angry, often ignorant, but once in a while astonishingly autodidactically learned and thoughtful. Let a thousand flowers bloom!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Meditation on a Pillow

So yesterday UPS delivered my new pillow, a new goose down pillow I'd ordered online. It replaces my old goose down pillow, however many years old, which had gotten decidedly grungy and dingy and unsightly.

I suppose I could've grabbed any old random pillow off the shelf at the discount store next time I went to town. But these days I don't make it to town that often; and finding a goose down pillow, and not just any old foam rubber contrivance, would probably have meant making the long drive (several hours) to the city. Gas and time add up to money, too: factor that in, and I'm probably further ahead to order online, and have the pillow delivered to me, out here on a gravel road far into deep rural America. Such are the realities of purchases, "mail order" or otherwise, in this cyber era.

And the pillow I ordered was made in the USA, unlike most pillows I'd be likely to find at WalMart.

Too, the older I get, the less inclined I am to settle for any cheap-ass item I stumble across, simply because I'm in town and there it is in front of me on the shelf. Quality counts. This pillow joins flannel sheets with old-fashioned ticking, and a 100% wool Hudson Bay blanket on my bed. Quality counts.

I was brought up to believe that I should just settle for whatever was on the shelf, as long as it was cheap and in front of me, and never even consult my own likings or preferences. Pillows, shirts, shoes, dishes, kitchen appliances: it was considered "smart" to be penny wise and pound foolish, and decadent even to ask myself if I might like something else only a little more expensive better. I am appalled, looking back, at how many years it took me to throw off this bit of Depression-era "wisdom" my folks instilled in me.

No, quality counts. That blanket will last a lifetime. That pillow will last longer than the cheap foam rubber edition, which actually these days isn't so cheap any more. In the long run I'll probably save money, and in the meantime I'll certainly enjoy them a lot more than some shoddily-made something snatched from the bargain bin.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Three of my several dozen Facebook "friends" are responsible for something like 95% of the posts that greet me every time I log in. One of the three is singlehandedly responsible for nearly two-thirds of the total, posting a crapflood of dozens of items every day.

And what all three of them post is largely dull, dry-as-dust political agitprop. Screaming, raging, fanatical, extremist, crazy-insane political agitprop. I'm afraid I possess neither the paranoia nor the schizophrenia to buy into such panting wild-eyed ideological posturing. My eyes glaze over. I'm like, sorry, but I've got a life to live; haven't you?

I'm not even going to say which side of political center these friends, taken severally or taken together, are on. Does it really make any difference? Would I really be willing to cut any more slack for someone with insane views simply because political dead center happens not to interpose itself between me and them? No, crazy is crazy is crazy.

I've thought of hiding all posts from these individuals, but you know, once in a great while they do post something of personal interest, something that doesn't read as though it was spat straight out of a mechanical talking-points dispenser. Or some piece of personal news that I really ought to know. In the meanwhile, I shall continue to wonder how otherwise decent and functional human beings can become so hung up on such shrieking frantic utter bilge.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Out of the Hospital

A friend of mine will be getting out of the hospital this morning, according to an email from his wife. For that I am heartily thankful. He's been in the hospital now for over a week-- bowel obstruction-- and day after day they kept expecting that by "tomorrow" they'd have to resort to surgery to open things up again. But patience and waiting paid off, and by Sunday evening he was back on fluids and jello. Now going home.

I stopped by the hospital to see him a couple of times when I was in town last week. Big fellow, early 60s, and ordinarily the very picture of good health. I doubt he's ever been in the hospital before in his life. This condition came over him without warning. Feeling crappy for a couple of days, then into the hospital, and then the situation stretched out day after uncertain day.

It could happen to any of us. I'm mid 50s. It could happen with no more warning than he had. And then, for much of last week, it was far from certain that he'd get through it without surgery, which would've laid him up for far longer. I'm just glad it didn't come to that.