The Irony Of Experience
by David Eide .

I look at my experience with a bit more irony than I did in the past. A bit less of the need for perfection which, after all, is never there. At some point I saw some great vanities of the society, if not "age". The media age, the shined up mirror age. I saw the vanity in terms of actual achievement, of actual deed and decided that the vain did not know what they were doing or else why were they attempting to con people into believing that they were doing something great. And so I set that vanity under the scope. I saw that vanity as a pattern of existence. It is painful to return to.

Underneath this vanity hangs great self-loathing; there is a period of time of wanting to be someone other than oneself. This is one of the attractions to "entertainment". It's a measure of how people hate themselves.

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I had this "deep" dream in which, at times, I am an astronaut in some very poor area, watching my father on a television program. The astronaut dream was as vivid as I can remember. I blasted off and didn't quite reach the destination. I didn't spend too much time in space. The poor area was a flatland, Oakland perhaps but with a quality all its own. The little shanties were piled haphazardly along one stretch of area. A small general store sat by itself. A young black woman spoke to me in the dream. "We are poor, don't make things worse for us." I was in the audience watching my father on this talk show. He was awkward. I'm not sure what he talked about. Another guest, famous, came out. When my father met him he bowed his head shyly and the performer went into his routine. Going back to my escapade as an astronaut I enter a family group. They don't seem at all curious about my adventure. Apparently this is days or weeks after the fact. Finally, tangential mention is made and I begin explaining the utter thrill of this adventure.

I can see something in this dream. Male, female, self. The male's need for adventure, for venturing in danger and the bravado of that. The female conscience which is brought back to limitations, to actualities and then the self in the middle of this tension. And the vanity of the male humbled and, even, humiliated by fortune. Maybe it's all babbling nonsense. Space, the imagination and exploration thereof, has always held my interest. And yet it always pained me to recognize and acknowledge poverty and that the roots of my family are poor. It is a tension.

Just yesterday I found myself in a run-down section of the city. The atmosphere was an oppressive one. Interest in history leads to this place since history is overwhelmingly the run-down and mean areas of town and city.

Illusion and Reality form the basic categories of experience do they not? What is illusion? What is reality? These are eternal questions that are then transformed into articulate categories such as World and God, Self and Society, Falsehood and Truth, Science and Faith. The world eternally fights over these categories.

You eventually have to take the question on and address it in some fashion. It's very difficult to do unless you protect yourself.

A man is always in relation to a world that has either made up its mind about these questions or thinks these questions foolish. I reached a point where the pragmatists had the better idea: Let the world reveal itself. Let it reveal how it organizes itself and how it gives itself meaning and the categories through which it orders itself.

So, Politics, Economy, Law, Education and so on.

Assuming that each of these categories is both a demonstrable fact, is propelled by an ideal and judged by that ideal, a description is produced subject to incremental critiques as even the universe is reduced to the smallest measure and predictable from one increment to another.

And that there are several assumptions at the bottom of all this activity: Progress: The threshold between production and corruption while the assumptions underneath progress are reason. Reason can discern the bad from the good, therefore the will can choose the good over the bad, therefore one can reach an ideal or perfection. Conversely, reason can determine when the good goes to bad and so intercede and re-direct energy to the good once more. It also presumes that there is a measure or reason that can articulate the goal of progress. The goal of progress is a source of conflict. For the individual the goal of progress is material well-being, relative happiness, good friendships and so on. Therefore, a society based on the individual strives to accommodate this goal. You can't have material well-being without some sense of security. Disequilibrium comes from conflict. So, the need to lessen conflict and develop social relations that are free and unhindered from class constraints so that the possibility of love and friendship can be exhausted through the mortal human being. That can be a state reached by many in the soociety. Until, perhaps, their children grow up. But is that the end? Is that the final point? Is that what all the struggle, suffering has been about? To reach this particular point? So that large groups of people can say, "we are the end point of perfection and that all of history has struggled to produce us?" If that is true, then what is left?

Into this particular tension comes a kind of resolution that says, "ah, the world is not perfect so we will make the world perfect after our image. The world is wracked by poverty, disease, tyranny so we will bend down and help that world become as perfect as we are.

This attitude has been at the center of much activity. At some point individuals reflect on themselves and decide that if the society and world is not perfect how can they be perfect?

Has experience revealed any single person who was perfect? Any society? Any group? No. How do you know? How do you know if this individual or that individual is perfect or not? If you can answer that then you have established a standard by which you measure all perfection.

The religious person says, "God is perfect, Christ is perfect, everything is measure in relation to this perfection."

The secular person says "utter equality, utter harmony can be perceived therefore it is the standard of perfection."

The pragmatist says, "there is no perfection only use in relation to what does and does not work."

The existentialist says, "there is no perfection but only what is revealed and the comparison or relation between these revelations."

The scientist says, "perfection is natural laws discovered by scientific method."

If there was not some sense of perfection there would be little or no conflict. Conflict only comes about because a perceived perfection is threatened; either of happiness, well-being, moral perfection and so on. That conflict is latent until one says, "my sense of perfection should rule over all other perfection and should be judged in relation to that perfection."

These values conflict all the time. There are no easy answers.

When we watch the development of the space program everyone involved presumes that it will be better as it goes on. That there is a state of imagination which can see the universe peopled with humans and space vehicles. And what seems so extraordinary to us is mundane and relatively normal to those in the future who, no doubt, have a sense of perfection or progress that we can hardly conceive of.

So our sense of perfection and progress is limited. It is circumscribed by what material is available at this moment of time. We know that there will be a period in which our notions of perfection and progress will be superfluous.

This is the weight of the material world. This is the essential contradiction or paradox at the bottom of it.

Whereas moral perfection and progress are infinite since we know that so little perfection and progress has occurred in this area. We are still chasing after the perfection and progress of the moral spirit that is thousands of years old with small progress and so conscious that we simply can't conceive of a period of time when this question will end.

This is the source of great division in this civilization and between different civilizations that exist concurrently in this day and age.

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