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art

“Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may.”
— Plato

 “Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye.”
— William Shakespeare, Love’s Labours Lost

“Today, each artist must undertake to invent himself, a lifelong act of creation that constitutes the essential content of the artist’s work. The meaning of art in our time flows from this function of self-creation.”
— Harold Rosenberg

Could there really be a significant difference between the function of art today and in the past? Isn’t inspiration the most fundamental be-all and end-all of art in all its forms and in all ages? Art is “an exquisite work of human creativity that is appreciated and valued according to its own impressive and praiseworthy qualities that transcend the prosaic and the trivial.” (1)  An artist gets inspired to create and perform which in turn inspires an appreciative audience. Art in this sense is both internally as well as externally satisfying, i.e., to both the artist and her/his audience.

But does art mimic real life or perhaps art has a life of its own which in certain instances is mimicked by real life? Whatever the case might be, real life and art must have a convergence point that in the course of events in this world enhances, even enriches, both. Aesthetic perception is something inherent in humanity under normal circumstances, though it might be argued reasonably that artists are artists with all the passion and intensity of their arts because there is something in their spirit that gets beyond the so-called normal. Having this in mind leads us to the notion that within an artist’s essence is a yearning that seeks release and expression through a particular medium. Much deeper than the idea of inspiration is this existential artistic yearning whose full fruition is in the materiality of an artwork, a composition or a performance.

“Art is the concrete/tangible/substantial materialization of the human creative impulse to convey her/his most vital desires and needs. Art is the channel that facilitates the release of humanity´s imaginative urge that makes life more liveable and more worth enhancing. In a broader sense, we may even contend that human life in its truest essence is art itself. It is the artistic spirit of humanity that sees beauty in the natural environ of earthly existence. The course of life on earth provides magnificent inspiration to the creative human being in the furtherance of the world which s/he started to create millennia ago and has been the focal point of her/his most determined struggles to survive, to improve and to make life more meaningful despite myriads of troubles, adversities and tragedies. (2)

Paradoxically, an art that creatively captures real life bestows the latter with wings that let it fly in the celestial imagination of a beholden connoisseur. In the same vein, real life that excitedly captures an artistic expression or performance deepens and accentuates the latter’s  magnitude with dramatic effervescence. The function of art is therefore purely of a subjective nature with all the possibilities of varied, even contrapuntal, appreciative and non-appreciative receptions emanating from a multiplicity of perspectives. As the saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

An art may have some socially relevant message but its impact may only achieve deep fruition through subjective recognition. It is how an art affects me personally that I consider it worthy of my profound esteem. It is one’s own personal and existential valuation that makes an art essential. No honest-to-goodness aesthete basically cares at all when an art has already achieved wide recognition for such only entails quantitative credit of statistical proportion. What matters at this point is the qualitative value of an art which may only be corroborated through the richness of one’s articulate reflection. Art appreciation is not a follow-the-leader procession but an instance of penetrating discernment. It is characterized by an extraordinary feeling of exhilaration that spontaneously engulfs one’s sensitive state at the moment of encounter. In this connection, art remains and will always be a matter of individual and subjective meaningfulness. It is the inner exhilaration one experiences that makes art sublime.

Manipulative art is thus an oxymoron for an art is composed, designed or performed in a condition of freedom aimed to free the human spirit and appropriate its power to relish the boundless sphere of aesthetic insight. In certain present-day contexts, art is however lamentably  used as propaganda tool to advance party politics aimed to brainwash people and condition their minds to toe the party line. In this situation, art defeats itself and what the people get in general is not really art but its semblance. “Propaganda art”–which is a distortion of the true essence of art–isn’t reflective of authentic human experience but a drawing away of one’s sensitivity and sensibility from the existential aspect of her/his reality to get her/him closer to where the dominant political powers want the people to be and that is precisely in a state of subservience and controlled movements. Getting critical to the different forms of this “art” as in literature, painting, sculpture, installation, theatre and drama, among others, automatically courts the ire of the powers that be and the critics are hence instantly declared as subversives.

However, this turn of events may witness the emergence of real artists from among the subversives and give rise to subversive art which in the process recaptures the true essence of art. Subversive art is authentic art for it exalts unconditional expression and unhindered appreciation. In fact, art should in some ways be perennially subversive for in such a state it will always be an exciting arena of human activity that unceasingly challenges aesthetic creativity in a dynamic way.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 21 July 2015

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Notes:

(1) “Where Technique Ends, Art Begins” by Ruel F. Pepa . . . https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/where-technique-ends-art-begins/

(2) “The Value of Art” by Ruel F. Pepa . . . https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/the-value-of-art/

past future

“The consequences that cause sorrow and rapture are the seeds that the past has sown in the field of the soul, and by which the future shall profit.”

Kahlil Gibran, On Wisdom” in The Vision

“Our unique past prepares us for our unique future.”
— Anonymous

“Without a past, you can’t have a future.”
— Michael Ende

 

Taking it superficially is a one-way, dead-end absurdity but its undercurrent–being a paradoxical statement–is philosophically challenging. On the one hand, we have the past which is supposed to be final and irrevocable, whereas on the other, we have the future which at this point in time is yet non-existent, i.e., nothing, zero. However, space-time as a category of human consciousness is an unbroken continuum that at a certain point of the present connects the past with what may possibly occur in the future. In this sense, the future is considered as nothing only from the viewpoint of present actuality. But as a matter of ideated event in one’s fecund mental space, the future is something. The future as such cannot be here and now but the here and now that is pregnant with a thousand and one possibilities is the loom that weaves the tapestry of the future.

Empirical reality has made us realize that we cannot in whatever way detach our present circumstances from the past that has led to them. The present may offer us a variety of possible choices and in the process assure us of the reality of free will as an inherent component of our humanity. Yet one certain presupposition in the whole gamut of our being is the fact that even these possible choices have been formed and made available to us by the unalterable events of past schemings, activities and outcomes. In one way or the other, we are captives of the past. Memory has basically incarcerated some significant pockets of our earthly lives in the prison of the past.

“This is the human condition which is always being reckoned in terms of the abstract present but the past doesn´t seem to want to let us move on. The present qua present is flitting and elusive so that what is concretely held in abeyance is the ‘persistence of memory’ (with apologies to Salvador Dali) and the lure of the future. The present therefore becomes the convergence point of what already happened and the things yet to come. On the one hand, we have unrelenting memories of things gone by while on the other, we are suffused with the will to bring forth the realization of our dreams.” (1)

But more intense than this is the consequential harvest brought about in our present experience by our past deeds both good and bad.

Unless death intervenes, we continue to tread on the uninterrupted space-time path and traverse the illusory frontier of the present and the future. Every step we make toward the so-called future instantly transforms it into the present which in the same vein, likewise transforms the present we leave behind into the irreversible past . But in whatever “magical” ways these transformations take place, certain memories and consequences of the past persist with the magnitude of an immanent baggage as we trudge on to the present and further to the future. At the threshold of the future, the past continues to linger on the shoulders of the present. With all our innate creative talent to cope with the intricate fibers of human experience and squarely deal with the burdensome past, there is no easy way to get rid of it.

The past is always here and now as it interweaves with the present. The “presence of the past” (with apologies to Cambridge biologist Rupert Sheldrake who is the author of a sensational and controversial book with the same title) is here to stay  not only in the present but further into the future. In the light of this realization, what has made us outstanding is the special character of our humanity that has bestowed on us the capability to befriend the past and honor its lessons. At this point, we are no longer concerned with how the present transforms into the past and how the future transforms into the present but rather with how we transform our perspective in relation to the fleeting moments of our temporal existence. In fact, experience has taught us to even enshrine the lessons and precepts of the past and assign a name to it: History.

” . . . In this connection, we could reasonably say that the past after all is not final and irrevocable for in History, the past is an open-ended proposition that may be subjected to change. In other words, through a signification of the past as a matter of History, finality or irrevocability is never achieved, for in History, the past is continually infused with a fresh breath of meaningfulness. Every now and then, History constantly revitalizes the past by transfusing it with new lifeblood achieved through interpretation and re-interpretation to make more sense of what is obtaining in the present. . . .” (2)

In a more literal sense, the past may not be our future. But for some aspects of the future to be conceived with the guidance of the past, it is quite meaningful to claim in a positive way and with some degree of poetic justice that the past is our future.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 12 July 2015

Notes:

(1) “Memories” by Ruel F. Pepa, https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/memories/

(2) “How Relevant is the Past?” by Ruel F. Pepa, https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/how-relevant-is-the-past/

Universal Morality

moral

Morality is of the highest importance–but for us, not for God.”
— Albert Einstein

“True morality is doing what is right without the threat of divine retribution nor the possibility of divine reward.”
— Anonymous

Morality is distinctly human, both individually and socially. Like time and space, it is an inherent category of human consciousness that operates in one’s interactive engagement with other human individuals, with society and with the natural environment as well. Morality guides us to distinguish between good and bad intents and to determine whether an action is right or wrong. Its more prominent character though is basically prescriptive and is thus particularly concerned with what we ought to think and do in certain instances and contexts of human experience.

Under normal circumstances–and without making an appeal to religion or belief in god as a moral dispenser–every human person is endowed with a moral compass. There is no normal human being devoid of morality. In this sense, we say that morality is universal. Every human being is in the least aware of what is good or bad for her/himself and this specific awareness is true to all. S/he knows the right action s/he ought to do as well as  the wrong one s/he ought not to do. Human experience is generally replete with moments of decision-making wherein the question What ought I to do? especially matters. It therefore affirms once and for all the fact that morality as a human factor is indubitable and hence universal.

However, when we get to the more detailed issues of morality in different social contexts, what comes out prominently is the fact that in many instances some moral standards in a society obviously contrast and conflict with those of another society. We have seen how certain moral principles and values in a social formation diametrically oppose those in another.

” . . . [S]ocieties are not all alike in terms of culture. Sociology calls this, ¨cultural relativism¨. In this sense, certain moral standards and practices of a particular society—being matters of culture— may not only differ from but could even be diametrically opposite to those of another society´s. In other words, what is deemed to be good in society A could be evil or bad in society B. As a case in point, having four wives at most in an Islamic society is good but having one wife is not bad at all but is likewise within the range of what is accepted as good. However, in a Christianity-influenced society, heterosexual monogamy is standard while deviations are frowned upon, i.e, regarded as immoral. There are culturally approved—and even appreciated—practices considered moral in primitive South Pacific societies but are judged immoral in the context of more modern western societies (based on scholarly research studies done by professional anthropologists of leading European and American universities). These scenarios lead us to the notion that being good as a matter of socio-culturally determined morality is relative.” (1)

This condition is the prime focus of those who believe and assert that there is practically no universal morality. Moral standards differ from one society to another; morality is therefore relative and can never be universal. But this view is taking the meaning of the issue in another sense.

Of course, we know very well that some moral standards in one society may contrast with those of another society. This gives us the notion that on certain moral issues, standards are relative to the social contexts  that own them.

“Every human being under normal circumstances is born and raised in a particular social milieu. S/he in the process acquires the fundamental social beliefs, values and practices instituted in that society´s cultural network. Within such network is the society´s moral standards and practices—ideal principles and behaviours exceedingly cherished and held in high esteem through generations. They constitute the moral paradigm of that society´s denizens. They are the yardstick through which what is decent and honourable and just and fair from the viewpoint of that particular society is called good. Entailed in this notion is the performance of certain adequate duties to satisfy specific social expectations. What ought we to do? This is the foundation where the concept of the good is couched. Through the threshold of this moral assemblage emanates the question, ‘Why should we be good people?’ And the quality of an act in this sense is not automatically considered good by self-judgment per se; it has to be acknowledged and accepted as desirable in the light of  dominant cultural patterns within the overall range of the society´s moral system.” (2)

This matter doesn’t however affirm that all moral standards are across the board relative because we are likewise equally aware that certain moral standards, principles and virtues are universally held, unconditionally embraced, vigorously promoted and hence considered as absolute and  non-negotiable in all possible worlds (with apologies to Leibniz). One outstanding universal standard of morality is human flourishing defined and backed up by the principle that human individuals and societies must not hinder the progressive trajectory of a human being’s full potential to achieve higher levels of development through her/his skills and talents which must be performed without likewise hindering and preventing the performance of  those of the others.

Strongly contributory to human flourishing are the equally univeral standards of suffering-amelioration, conflict-resolution and pleasure-promotion without which human flourishing will not be fully achieved. These are universal fundamental ideals upheld as paramount beacons of humanity’s social and environmental engagements. We find them idealized in all human societies across the globe. Instances of their violation, both small-scale and massive, in many societies do not make their perennial significance obsolete but rather further fortify their universal essences.

Besides the abovementioned universal moral standards and principles are the universal virtues of fairness, honesty, compassion, friendship, integrity and courage. They are highly valued moral characters in all human societies despite cultural differences. In other words, no society on Earth in all generations past and present can undermine the universal essences of these virtues. In fact, they are solid factors that interweave with the standard and principle of human flourishing and further enhance in the process suffering-amelioration, conflict-resolution and pleasure-promotion.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 07 July 2015

Notes:

(1) “Why Should We Be Good People?” by Ruel F. Pepa. https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/why-should-we-be-good-people/

(2) Ibid.

Living Off the Grid

living-off-grid

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdrvHyD8mOQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBjr_Gg89t4

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The Establishment–the System–has gone so complex in the modern dispensation and its inherent dynamic to create circumstances to draw within its orbit the denizens of a social formation where it operates seems irresistible. Everybody is expected to toe the line that connects with the Establishment. To be called normal is to be on the grid, so to speak, which is originally a technical term that refers to the source of electric power supply that facilitates households in a particular community.

Yet despite all these, the world has witnessed varied forms of cultural rebellion with the general character of getting unplugged from the System. At a certain period when the complex System has already become a burden to the people as it reaches a certain stage of development where the System itself pushes them to the edge with all the discomfort they experience, it is never far fetched that some fearless individuals will rise up to defy the System and ultimately dare to step out of its bounds. In simple terms, we say that once the System has gotten extremely impositional, some brave souls within its sphere get to the point of deciding once and for all to cross the frontiers, dissociate and free themselves from the System and start to radically modify their lifestyle, reinvent themselves and live off the grid.

Living off the grid is one hell of a disposition. Getting disconnected from the System is a tough situation, for in the course of time from past generations until the present, the System has always been with us as a framework of our earthly existence. We have always reckoned the System as the ordered reality of our being and getting hooked into its multifaceted conditions is what we cognitively acknowledge and even defend as our reality. Within its dominion, we share the temporal pleasures and woes that interweave to form its intricate tapestry. We are the devotees who religiously join its unending procession with the faith of a fanatical believer blindly convinced that the System’s omnipotence will never fail us. [Cf. https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=447&v=Xbp6umQT58A ]

But a deeper analysis makes us realize that the System is tyrannical and hence oppressive.  We have seen an array of its inconsistencies and unrealistic demands. We have moments in our experiences where we face a dead-end and what the System promises is unrealizable. At certain extreme moments, the System’s nauseating push becomes unbearable and the only way to get rid of it is to disentangle ourselves from the System. However, it takes some herculean effort to effect a break away. The spectre of isolation in a lifeless desert terrifies us exceedingly. Getting finally unattached  from the System could unredeemably plunge us down into an abyss of paralysis tantamount to death. Thinking within this mind-frame leads us to the notion that living off the grid could in a way be construed as an act of suicide. Yet, the persistent question at this point is, Are these lingering negative thoughts justifiable in reasonable terms or are they just baseless fears as delusional as those of Plato’s cave dwellers?

The idealism of Henry David Thoreau didn’t last long though we could imagine the spiritual excitement he experienced in the challenges of living much more closely with nature as he recounts his experimental off-grid stint in Walden Pond. But the off-grid lifestyle of the Amish people of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Ontario (in Canada) has spanned generations in almost two centuries since their ancestors migrated to the New World. Those of us who are more or less familiar with the Amish way of life understand in much clearer terms what living off the grid actually entails. Though, it could be argued perfectly well that within Amish communities they themselves have established their own grids which have suffered through generations the same cultural rebellion we have seen in the super-system of the modern western world. Multitudes of Amish young people year-in-year-out have left their communities after having been suffocated too long by the narrow-mindedness and the religious fundamentalism that traditionally characterize the Amish way of life.

There are however existing and still-emerging self-sustaining fringe communities of non-religious mold in various parts of the world that have decisively declared their non-involvement with the System represented by the State government where they are located (e.g., Avalon Organic Gardens and EcoVillage in Tucson, Arizona). Some of these communities are deeply involved in permaculture projects where they raise their own foods and in harnessing electricity through the installation of solar panels on houses and even in specifically designated areas within a particular community. Even their water sources are localized.These communities have cut off their connection with State governments  and rejected government subsidies in their projects. Their members don’t even care anymore about the social security insurance and the government health and medical services as well.

These off-grid communities are the post-industrial/post-modern expressions of defiance to and rebellion against the widespread corruption and exploitation perpetrated by State governments in practically all parts of the so-called modern western world. In these off-grid communities, governance decentralization is the name of the game. It is guided by the idealistic principle that human freedom, justice, peace and progress may truly be achieved in small-scale, decentralized states of affairs. As a protracted goal, these communities want to prove in most concrete terms that State control is really the scourge rather than the protector and enhancer of human societies on planet Earth.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 29 June 2015

race01

 

“It is race, is it not, that puts the hundred millions of India under the dominion of a remote island in the north of Europe. Race avails much, if that be true, which is alleged, that all Celts are Catholics, and all Saxons are Protestants; that Celts love unity of power, and Saxons the representative principle. Race is a controlling influence in the Jew, who, for two millenniums, under every climate, has preserved the same character and employments. Race in the negro is of appalling importance. The French in Canada, cut off from all intercourse with the parent people, have held their national traits. I chanced to read Tacitus ‘On the Manners of the Germans,’ not long since, in Missouri, and the heart of Illinois, and I found abundant points of resemblance between the Germans of the Hercynian forest, and our Hoosiers, Suckers, and Badgers of the American woods.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Race must be viewed as a social construction. Human interaction rather than natural differentiation must be seen as the source and the continued basis for racial categorization.”

— Prof. Ian F. Haney Lopez, “The Social Construction of Race”

Race is basically a physico-biological concept and this is obviously attested by the fact that people differ in terms of certain physical features courtesy of the genetic factor. By and large, we automatically distinguish the geographical origins of people though it is true that times are a-changing, so to speak, and many of them were born and are now residents in locations not originally of their ancestors’. Pakistanis and Indians in UK, black Africans in the US . . . Arabs in Spain . . . Chinese in Germany . . . Italians in Argentina . . . Southeast Asians in Italy . . . Filipinos in Arab countries . . . . The list could go on and on as the issue of migration has become commonplace in the modern world. With this development is the emergence of the issue of race that goes beyond the physico-biological. At this point, the concept of race becomes more of a social matter.

In a social context where multiple racial presence is a reality, problems in the area of cultural differences heighten the fundamental discrepancies created by skin-color distinction. However, it is always the dominant racial stock in such a society that assumes the standard-setting prerogative. In this condition, the dominant segment spontaneously claims cultural ascendancy over and above the rest. In the process, a hierarchical ladder–a racial caste system, if you will–is set up on the basis of how far removed the others are from the ascendant standard-setting race. This matter taken seriously could be construed as an undying extension of the ancient master-slave mentality though with all the modifications necessary to toe the superficial line of “decency” that defines what a modern society is supposed to look like.

If a dominant racial group in a society enjoys more benefits, privileges, rights and opportunities than the others, the issue of race as a concept becomes social. The general situation presents the superiority of the former over the latter. At this point, thinking people get curious and wonder why the former becomes more superior than the latter. We want to know what inherent genetic qualities does the dominant group possess that make it superior. Is it in terms of physical strength? Is it in the exquisite physical endowments their men and women have? Or perhaps in their unequalled intelligence? While contemplating on these, we could go on  and on thinking of other factors generally held by members of a race who consider themselves dominant and superior over the others.

In a lot of multi-racial societies that used to be colonies of white-skinned Europeans, racial superiority is reckoned in terms of physical appearance especially the facial features and the skin complexion. This concern is one important area of consideration to better understand what basically colonial mentality is. The closer one’s facial features and skin complexion are to those of the colonizers’ descendants, the more they are treated with special attention, appreciation and affection. An African American (or an African European for that matter) woman is considered pretty if she possesses certain caucasian qualities that make her far different from the typical African. In this context, aesthetic judgment–which is precisely social or socio-cultural, if you will–is thus heavily influenced by the caucasian standard. This matter is much more pronounced in beauty pageants, both local and international so that a southeast Asian contestant should have some caucasian features to qualify. And this is true across the board wherever we find societies that used to be colonies of white empires in bygone eras.

However, in another categorical consideration like when it comes to physical prowess as in sports, those of African descent have proven in various events their excellent talents. In US professional basketball alone as a case in point, African Americans have shown their superiority for several succeeding generations. But this could be mistakenly construed as a unilateral assessment if we are not aware of the fact that white European hoopsters are of equal talents, skills and capablities and all these have been witnessed in international campaigns like the world cups. Once realized on a balanced scale, the final analysis yields to us the conclusion that after all, race is a non-factor in matters of physical strength.

The same is true in terms of intelligence as it is an established fact that high-level intelligence is normally  possessed by people in all racial groupings everywhere. So long as we don’t make the Nobel Prize in various categories (except the peace prize)–where the majority of the awardees are caucasian–as the standard to judge the superior intelligence of one race over the other, we are on the right track to argue that intelligence transcends the racial divide. In the same vein, we likewise find stupid people everywhere so that nobody can ever lay reasonable claim to the notion that stupidity is one specific characteristic of some particular racial units. Economic backwardness is therefore not a proof that a nation is inhabited by people whose stupidity is inherent to their racial roots . In practically all instances, these societies have long been victims of a series of politically generated setbacks that could be traced from the early days of colonization to the most recent mismanagement of governments run by incompetent and corrupt leaders while the more critically thinking intelligentsia are threatened and gagged by all possible means as well as hunted, imprisoned and even assassinated.

The worst case of racial issue as a social problematization that has hugged world news in the present dispensation is Israeli Zionism. It is based on a religious ideology which is purely mythical, even a blatant lie, that doesn’t  have any historical justification. It has laid claim over a geographical portion of the Middle Eastern region which is now called Israel by virtue of the 1948 implementation of the Balfour Declaration. The whole scenario that has developed through time since Israel was first inaugurated is the bitter displacement of the land’s original inhabitants: the Palestinians. The ensuing violence that has resulted to carnage and catastrophic massacres perpetrated by the Zionist Israelis is absolutely aimed to totally annihilate the Palestinians on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Zionism as an ideology using the Jewish religion as a front promotes a brand of racism that puts to shame all previous racisms recorded in world history. The issue of race in Zionism transcends the physico-biological as it claims that the “God” of the Jewish Torah has given Israeli Jews a special recognition as the most important people in the world being “God’s chosen”. As far as the physico-biological aspect, there is actually no difference between the so-called “Israelis” and the Palestinians as they theoretically both belong to the same racial stock, i.e., if we hitch our argument on the Jewish premise taken from their Torah. In the light of this premise, both the Jews and the Palestinians belong to the Semitic racial stock.

However, Israel’s exclusivist formulation grounded on invented socio-cultural presuppositions has promoted the idea that only Israelis are of Semitic stock and all attempts to bitterly attack and condemn the bullying perpetrated by Israel over the Palestinians is definitely “anti-Semitic”. In the modern world, nothing matches Zionism as it immorally stands out to notoriously promote the superiority of a race as a social construction based on concocted lies of malevolent personalities who being atheists do not even believe in the “God” whom they claim have chosen them and intended to bring them to the “promised land”.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 23 June 2015

history makers

Basic to the issue at hand is the question: Whose history? Or perhaps, History of what? It could be the history of an individual human being, also known as, a biography which is useful to better understand the person of the one spoken of in such an account. It could be the medical history of a certain patient confined in a hospital whose usefulness is of utmost importance for the medical specialists to trace the cause of the person’s illness. History could also be that of a business company’s rise to prominence from being a simple buy-and-sell junkyard to a multi-million-dollar (or -euro) enterprise whose internal usefulness to its corporate planners is of immense value and whose external influence is an exciting inspiration to future entrepreneurs, present and future. History as a tracing of development can be of anything.

However, what classically stands out as one among the many disciplines of human intellectual endeavor is history as history of a nation. In fact, this particular sort of history is an academically “canonized” field formally studied in schools. As an academic field it is uniquely distinguished from the “hard” (natural) and “soft” (social) sciences and is more associated with the humanities. History’s most unique peculiarity is its distinct character which is not fully objective. It may be argued that doing history fundamentally starts off with the objective data of real space-time events like actual places, dates and people. But such factors are not officially considered history as yet but simply the skeletal framework upon which the “flesh” of history is formed by the writer of history or technically, the historiographer. In this connection, we say that the so-called essence of history becomes a matter of our cognitive knowledge by way of historiography or the writing of history. The history of a nation is therefore a weaving of stories–an interpretation and re-interpretation–based on actual recorded events in the hands of a historiographer whose basic official recognition–and at times, mandate–is traditionally bestowed within the framework of academic standards as most (if not all) of the officially acknowledged historiographers are academics.

History as interpretation and re-interpretation is hence not fully objective on the one hand and in the same vein, not fully subjective on the other. Perhaps, the most we can say about the substantial meaningfulness of history is its inherent capacity for intersubjective valuation. The historical rehearsal of a particular milestone in the life of a people in a social context is therefore a matter of widespread consensus for it to be of national significance. History in this ideal sense is viewed as a unifying core that inspires a people and makes it proud of its cultural heritage. History as such aims to strengthen the common points of integration that define the national character of a people. With this in mind, we seem to get to the full measure of history’s ideal usefulness.

Yet, history as a stuff of human reality is some distance away from the ideal and if there ever be  controversies as there really are, it lies in the hands of the official historiographers who in a lot of instances are writing–even re-writing–history on behalf of dominant interest groups in the political arena.

“We know that there are interest groups behind the writing of every History and, in certain cases, one historiographer’s account of a significant event may run distinct and even in direct contradiction to another historical narrative. More than this, there could even be several dissimilar accounts from different historians. At a certain point, a focused study of these multilateral accounts gets extremely engaging as a meta-historical concern of philosophy, which zeroes in on an examination of a historian’s intents and motives as well as the power base that sustains such intents and motives and from which the historiographer draws the energy to write history from that perspective.” (1)

Having this in mind, we can think of many instances wherein history becomes solely useful to promote the agenda of politically motivated interest groups which in one way or the other hurt the psycho-social fiber of the common people who constitute the national majority. In other words, history written within these parameters defeats the expressed ideals and in the long run could even be a destructive factor leading to national disempowerment, exploitation and disintegration. History may thus be manipulated and distorted by unscrupulous historiographers to satisfy their patrons who walk the corridors of political power and are the actual beneficiaries of the history these historiographers have written.

The full fruition of a kind of history that is going to be useful to the people in whose behalf such history is written is something which is right in the hands of the said people themselves. The history-makers are the people and, in this light, the rightful historiographers of the history these people have made are no other than they themselves. The “death of the official historiographer” is the challenge of the present era. In the age of information, the multiple voices of the common people as history-makers should be heard as history-writers–i.e., historiographers–as well. Nobody has the unique qualification to write the history of post-modern society/nation except the people themselves. History as “[t]he past, within our here-and-now, is an inherent aspect of our existence and might even be a leading factor that points us to new and refreshing insights and discoveries to inspire, not only our own ascent to a higher and more refined intensity of being, but also that of others in the present and coming generations. In other words, the intrinsic process that makes possible the presence of the past in us is not in any way a hindrance but a dynamic component that defines where individuals are or are not.  (2)

History may only be reckoned as useful in the context of the people to whom such history is relevant. They are the real participants in the making of their history and their narratives have to be heard, written, recorded and archived.  They are the most credible historiographers of their national experience who in the passing of time have continually re-interpreted the past in the light of the present. In this way, we witness an ever fresh and refreshing rehearsal of the people’s stories that dynamically carry the past over to the present. The past signified in the present is history and history is a re-interpretation—a re-signification—of the past. In so doing, the past is hence not final and irrevocable for it is subject to a new re-interpretation, a fresh re-signification in the minds and attitudes of history-makers who in the present perspective are the historiographers themselves. “Lessons from history enlighten us to understand the present better and to approach more intelligently the challenges of the future that we are likewise tasked with creating.”  (3)

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 10 June 2015

Notes:

(1) “History is Too Often Written in Blood” by Ruel F. Pepa (http://newsjunkiepost.com/2015/01/20/history-is-too-often-written-in-blood/)

(2) “Liberate History to Conjure a Better Future” by Ruel F. Pepa (http://newsjunkiepost.com/2014/07/12/liberate-history-to-conjure-a-better-future/)

(3) Ibid.

knowing self

Taken as it appears and at its most superficial level, the issue at hand is a blank wall. Discussion is thus precluded. How does one proceed and get to a meaningful reflection and discourse on something he does not know, much less on something he does not know about himself? With all my limitations, I may not know anything about something out there but having somebody who knows makes the matter understandable to me as such is explained in the same language I speak. But to think of what I do not know about myself is a different consideration. The problem is not out there but deep inside. What I do not know about myself is purely and simply beyond my epistemic realm. At the onset, it seems to be a pseudo-problem. Stepping forward to get to things I do not know about myself doesn’t put me in a difficult situation but rather in a seemingly impossible task.

But moving on and looking at the matter from another angle may give us some fresh insights. Yes, I might not know some things about me and hence these to me are not real but these very same things have been seen by others and thus they are real to them. At a certain point in time, some “algebraic unknowns” about myself– that is, from my initial viewpoint–have been identified and later shared with me. They are not simply figments of imagination but things observed not by just one but by several who have figured out a consensus. Things about myself which I didn’t know before are now being opened up to me. At the end of the day, the epistemic process takes its normal course and leads me to the here-and-now of knowing things I never knew before about myself.

Then I get to the realization that all the while, there were those who knew things I didn’t know about myself before. This afterthought justifies the meaningfulness of the statement that there are really things about anybody that s/he doesn’t know at a certain point in time. Whether such things are later revealed or not is not the present philosophical concern. What matters though is the ontological meaningfulness of things someone does not know about her/himself and the epistemological validity of a substantial discourse on such an issue. In the light of how the present discussion has unfolded so far, things one does not know about her/himself are both ontologically real and epistemologically significant.

As a matter of ontological expansion, I am of the opinion that more insights may be achieved in the psychoanalytic realm as we bring to fore Sigmund Freud’s theory of the unconscious as well as the theory of the collective unconscious in Carl Gustav Jung’s depth psychology. Freud tells us that while the conscious mind operates in our awakened state, it is totally ignorant of everything generated by the operation of the unconscious mind which in reality exerts the biggest chunk of influence in the way we conduct our lives. In other words, there are more things we do not know about ourselves than those we know and these things we do not know are lodged in the unconscious mind. “The Freudian theory describes the unconscious mind as the depository of one’s suppressed passions, unfulfilled desires, unrealized wishes, unsatisfied cravings and frustrated aspirations. These are the factors that ‘actively operate’ underneath human existence and make life problematic, troubled and painful. In other words, the unconscious mind is actually the most ‘active’ of all the levels of the mind as its impact has produced the neurotic human being.” (1)

Basically, what we have in the unconscious mind are things we do not consciously know about ourselves. In this connection, “Freud theorized that unless these factors are unearthed and brought forth to consciousness from the depths of the unconscious mind by way of psychoanalysis, the human being will continue to be deprived of the opportunity to more fully and better understand her/himself and to enjoy life more meaningfully.” (2)  As the Freudian proposal states, things one doesn’t know about her/himself may be brought to the light of consciousness by means of psychoanalysis. ” . . . [A]s a therapeutic method, it offers a way of healing—an intervention that breaks the curses of past misadventures and ‘demonizations’. It is supposed to lead an individual to a better and much clearer understanding of her/his being through an “excavation” of what has long been hidden in the depth of the Unconscious. In dreaming, the subconscious surfacing of things ‘dumped’ in the Unconscious comes naturally while in the psychoanalytic process, the Unconscious is intentionally primed and systematically explored.” (3)

Turning now to Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious brings us to the knowledge of the myriad things we do not know about ourselves as such things are deeply embedded in our genetic configuration. Yes, we have the uniqueness of our individuality on the one hand but on the other, we are heirs to the immeasurable stream of an unbroken genetic line that goes way back to our earliest ancestors. ” . . . [W]e cannot be totally free from the distant and recent past which generally accounts for how each of us has been ‘conditioned’ or ‘programmed’ or ‘reinforced’ to do what we do in the present. The whole situation defines a human being´s person with the way s/he behaves and acts and reacts and thinks and looks at her/his so-called ‘reality’.” (4)

In the final analysis, it may be confidently said that things I initially do not know about myself may not remain hidden but should rather be exposed under the sunlight of full knowledge as a fitting response to the Socratic challenge, “Know yourself.”

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 03 June 2015
_____________________
NOTES:
(1) “The Silent Mind,”
https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/the-silent-mind/
(2) Ibid.
(3) “Dreams, Freud and Psychoanalysis,”
https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/dreams/
(4) “Good and Bad Vibes”
https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/%C2%A8good-and-bad-vibes%C2%A8/

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