Sunday, 3 January 2010

Life is Just a Bowl of Dialectics

Pick a Bowl of Cherries by **Mary**
Downloaded from Flickr under Creative Commons License

Warning:  Pompous heavy weather and pretentious obscurity up ahead (but I like the topic anyway).

There could hardly be a sillier take on what life is all about than "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries", written in 1931 by the now largely forgotten Lew Brown.   The lyrics are also largely, and advisedly, forgotten, but you can see them here if you want to, and get the ring-tone.  

Nevertheless, the title is a catchy phrase which has passed into idiomatic use, fortunately not without a tinge of irony.

So, as we move right along into 2010, change is in the air as usual, and I am thinking how much I‘m totally lovin’ it.  

The reason I am loving it is that I am analysing it (see my post on Epicurus and the analyzed life).   And when I say "just" a bowl of dialectics, I mean "like totally, dude".  I'm only being slightly satirical.  Life itself is totally dialectical:  that's just how I see it, and that's how I'm analyzing it.

Trouble is, its hard to see a dialectical situation if you don't know what you’re looking for. A change of plan can be forced upon you unexpectedly, as little Miss Newton here is just finding out.  (See the end of this post for more on this little cutie)

Downloaded from flickr with special permission.  
Thanks Colour.  I love this pic.

So you need to know what you are looking for.

My very first sociology professor said, at my very first lecture, many years ago:  "If you don't know what a carburetta is, when you look at an internal combustion engine you won’t see a carburetta".  

I found this to be very true. It exactly reflected my own experience at car mechanic class.  Once you know the various parts of a car engine, it resolves from a meaningless mass of pipes and caps and wires into a thing of rationality, order and purpose.  

And so it is with life itself, without the sense of rationality, order or purpose.  

Downloaded from Flickr under Creative Commons License

See what I mean? The colour-coding helps, and that’s what dialectics is in a way: intellectual colour-coding of trends.  Kind of.

Me, I don't care that life is not rational or well ordered, and I can live with all the contingencies of which it is entirely composed.  But I do like to really understand what's happening as much as I can, and here a dialectical perspective can help, because, as I say, life is itself dialectical.  

Dialectics is, in fact, the extremely useful, if complex, theory, or explanation, of how everything changes (which it does, at various speeds, all the time).  It is particularly good at describing the many resonating impacts of a change process, and especially in identifying the underlying factors, and the further factors underlying them.

First elaborated over two thousand years ago by the Greeks (of course), with multiple developments since, including most famously by Marx and Engels,  this body of thought is still very much evolving (along with everything else).  Some people never look at dialectics because of Marx and Engels, but that's just so naff.

I love it because it enables me to see beyond surface appearances to all the movement, contradiction and interconnection of things. It gives the whole picture. I mean, not just a static snapshot, but the total moving picture in all its reflexivity and flux. All at once, in multiple, inter-connected and mutually responsive layers and dimensions.  Marvelous really.  Cosmic.  Exhilarating.  Look it up.

Not only does it help me with change, a dialectical perspective is absolutely best at sorting out the difference between form and content:  that most things contain their own contradictions, and are at the same time both positive in principle but negative in operation, and/or partially or totally the other way around, depending on the context, the actors and the historical moment.  Still with me?

For example, the United Nations, the European Union and good old congressional or parliamentary democracy, all of which I support actively, are in essence necessary and perhaps even “good”, but are, at the same time, I think we can all agree, hopelessly and inherently flawed, not to say corrupt, and part of the problem.  

So a touch of dialectics helps very much in the whole area of critical support for the things we need more of, and informed resistance to the things we need less of: in other words to steer change in the most advantageous direction (as we see it, of course). 

In fact, its really essential for my goal of financial cruise control for all:  its the control part.

So I'm not suggesting we cherry-pick our understanding of life (hahaha).  Quite the reverse.  I’m saying we absolutely need the whole picture: that nothing less will do,  going forward.

Have I been totally pompous? I really believe this stuff -  I think its important. 

Anyway,  Happy New Year, Everyone !!!

So this is It? by Vimrod
Downloaded from Flickr under Creative Commons License

You may also like: 

What Leonard Cohen Means to Me, especially his remarkably dialectical "Democracy". (spotify or YouTube - live in London).

John Lennon: its Christmas and What have you Done?, and especially this lovely video.  I really like what he is saying here, and the respect he has for his young interviewer, and the message of "pay attention" is pretty much what I am saying.  A little less anarchism might have enabled a little more precision on what we need to watch out for, other than "them", but still, he's really thinking dialectically.

And for those of you who love cats, more pictures of the incredibly cute Miss Newton can be found here, in The Daily Kitten (I kid you not).  Colour and Obularity are terrific photographers.

Oh dear, already breaking my resolution not to bring cats into every darn topic (see last comment of the John Lennon post, which is below)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sarah Louise,
    I enjoy your posts, but this takes us back a bit doesn't it?
    All the best, Jude.