A Simple Explanation of Everything

We are prone to four mistakes in trying to make sense of ourselves and the world:

  1. Oversimple explanations.
  2. Answers of mind-bending complexity incapable of being grasped  — except when smoking marijuana.
  3. The following twin assumptions: a) reason explains more than emotion and b) others would reason as we do if they were reasonable.
  4. The belief we can fathom life in all its fullness.

Why #4 you ask? If I try to understand my inner workings, I only know myself on a conscious level. I do not have quick access to my unconscious even if I enter psychoanalysis with an expert. Nor can I see myself from outside.

Brain scientists don’t agree whether I have “free will.” My decisions — all the ones I think I’m in charge of — might be determined by the intersection of biology, history, and the fixed pathways of the brain pudding. The researchers cannot tell me if my actions are pre-baked into the cake of my being. My choices would only seem voluntary.

I search for comprehension, even so, but the morning’s newspapers cause mourning.

I’m distressed by the factual reports I find in these venerable, award-winning periodicals. I’m disturbed by elected and appointed officials — the kind who offer self-serving opinions without evidence and often without truth — who lack either conscience or courage. I’m troubled by the sightless idolators who follow these Pied Pipers toward the cliff. I’m unsettled by the thoughtlessness of some in opposition to them; and those citizens who complain or worry, but do nothing to defend the democratic republic.

What then is the explanation of the Bizzaro World at the tippy-top of the federal government’s executive branch?

In one sentence, here is the best I can do. This 17th-century wisdom fits into the first and last categories above. Over simplistic, for sure. Perhaps tongue-in-cheek or maybe dead serious.

Sometimes an idea waits nearly 400-years for a person who embodies it:

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Pensées

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The image at the top is Paul Klee’s 1921 Portrait of a Yellow Man. The 1978 painting that follows is called Loneliness, by George Stefanescu. Both are sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

7 thoughts on “A Simple Explanation of Everything

  1. Or, to put it another way, all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s disquiet with himself……do you think ? I think the original quote begs the question , why? Why is man unable to sit quietly in a room alone ?

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    • Good question. Psychologists know that an idle mind tends toward disquieting thoughts: mortality, anxiety, loss, etc. We either face these or run an enlarged risk of mischief, unhappiness, or both. Before creating Eve, Genesis tells us, “Man was not meant to be alone.” God probably didn’t mean it the way Pascal did, however!

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  2. Dr.Stein, in the late 1960s, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, an Indian guru, developed the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique with that very purpose in mind.

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  3. I have stepped away from the news completely and it has changed my life. My stress and anxiety has left me and I am at peace. I cannot change the current political climate but I can change how I deal with it. I have taken action by joining the League of Women Voters and I am helping with voter registration drives. They are a bipartisan group of people whose goal is to help people to register to vote amongst many other things. (I am still learning.) We do not discuss politics at these drives…it is truly bipartisan.

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    • Glad you are less stressed, Nancy. I hope the least registered groups of voters get sufficient attention. Even the choice of which voters are contacted can be a partisan choice. Sounds like you are being a good citizen.

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