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Passions in Poetry

Is life, or the universe, essentially good or bad?

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j0n4th4n
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0 posted 04-25-2004 09:38 PM       View Profile for j0n4th4n   Email j0n4th4n   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for j0n4th4n

I often get this feeling of 'resistance' from things in general. I catch myself thinking that the natural state of things is too be in some way 'difficult', oppository (I made this word up I think). It seems like the universe is naturally resistant to happiness for any long period of time - I always find myself waiting for something bad to happen when everything is going smoothly.

Why?

Does anyone else feel the same way? Is it just pessimism? I am the type of person that thinks, if someone I am waiting for is late, that they will not come, not ever. That everything can and will go wrong.

Linked to this is another feeling. When I see on the News tragedies happening, my thought processes are as follows:

'If x (a terrible tradegy) can happen in this world, then y (a similarly terrible tradegy) can happen to me. In fact, it almost must happen to me.'

I want to know, am I right in assigning to the Universe (or should that be, 'universe' - is that there the source of my problem? - over personification? - It reminds me of Ozzy Osbourne telling the waves to go away (in rather stronger language) when the tide was coming in and drowning his campfire (a modern day Canute!)) a singular 'character'? Why should I think that everything is linked? Why if x happens, should y happen?

It just doesn't seem fair. I think that's one aspect of it. I feel everything should be 'fair'. So if this world is bad for some, it should be bad for all. But of course, this world wouldn't be half so bad if it was at least 'fair'. One of the bad aspects of it is its unfairness.

I seem to have come to my own conclusions...but I'd like to hear any similar thoughts/ideas.
Local Rebel
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1 posted 04-25-2004 11:15 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

You're asking some of the right questions.

Many have come to similar conclusions.  The Greek, the Buddhist, The Taoist, The Hindu, Americanized Christianity even.  

Anxiety about the future is innate to an extent.  It is a survival mechanism of sorts.  But we have to learn to experience.  And by experience we do.

What is the definition of 'good'?
Aenimal
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2 posted 04-25-2004 11:21 PM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

It's about balance, positive and negative atoms, matter anti-matter, God the creator, god the destroyer. The universe cannot exist without both.
Ringo
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3 posted 04-26-2004 02:00 AM       View Profile for Ringo   Email Ringo   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Ringo

Personally, I don't see the Universe (big or little "U") as being inherently anything. Good things happen, and bad things happen, and somewhere in the mix everything washes. If the Universe was not in almost perfect balance then things would REALLY be screwed up.
Just because "X" happens, does that mean that "Y" can happen to you?
Absolutely. For anyone to say otherwise would be simply foolish naivety. Does it mean that it is LIKELY to happen? More than likely not... however that would depend on your definition of "Y". Example... For me, "Y" was losing 10 friends in a helicopter crash back in late 1990 outside of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, and then being part of the off-station response team sent to clean up the disaster scene... including my friends. For the president in charge of the investment firm in the Twin Towes, it was losing a couple of hundred of his employees. For a friend of mine, it was being date raped. It all depends on your definition of "Y".
It is also just as likely that for "A" (something astronomically good) to happen, then "B" something equally as good will happen to you. Is it likely? No. Unfortunately, that is just the nature of things. Then again... it all depends on what you define as "B".

If it's true that we are here to help others, then what exactly are the others here for?

Ron
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4 posted 04-26-2004 08:05 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Personal responsibility.

With a few very rare exceptions, everything that happens to us can be traced back to decisions made, consciously or unconsciously, in our own past. Most of the exceptions go back to decisions made by our parents or grandparents.

It's not a matter of whether your universe is inherently good or bad. Rather, it's a question of whether your own decisions were good or bad. Whether it's X or Y, or A or B, most of the things that happen to us happen because we chose for them to happen.
j0n4th4n
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5 posted 04-26-2004 03:16 PM       View Profile for j0n4th4n   Email j0n4th4n   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for j0n4th4n

Ringo - I'd like to say that you have my utmost respect for having gone through what you did. People like you give me hope that though the universe may be merciless, us humans are able to withstand it.

I was thinking, this makes sense, doesn't it?
I mean, if we are creatures of this Nature, then we are adapted to it.

Some really interesting replies here. Thanks!
Local Rebel
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6 posted 04-26-2004 09:32 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

I'm scratching my chin whiskers Ron.

I'm not going to outright disagree with you -- because I think personal responsibility is large.  But it's not quite as large as the universe.    

One can also say that we don't choose the majority of the factors in our lives because we never even chose to be.  We just are.  We may choose to live in a town -- but we don't choose for it to be struck by a tornado.  What we do if we survive becomes our reaction of choice.

There are factors in our life that we can control -- there are those that we can't.  The only thing we do have control over is how we react -- so I think there you are in the zone.  

But then the goodness or badness of the things we don't control comes into question.  We may have an accident due to reasons beyond our control -- and say -- break a leg.  Is that good or bad?  Maybe.  It's certainly not pain free -- but it may be less painful than the more terrible accident that was waiting around the next corner had we not suffered the leg breaking accident first.

Aenimal speaks of balance -- and the Taoist, Greek, some Christians, and Zoroastrian would agree -- there is a struggle for balance between the forces in the universe.  Their terminology would be different.  (the latter two seeing it as a struggle for dominance)

The Hebrew looked at the universe and said that it's good -- because they didn't differentiate between an ineffible spirit and the body -- God looked on creation and called it good.  

Personally -- I look at the universe and call it interesting.

Ron
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7 posted 04-27-2004 04:20 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
We may choose to live in a town -- but we don't choose for it to be struck by a tornado.

When I moved from California back to Michigan it was with the understanding there would be a greatly increased chance of a tornado. And a correspondingly decreased chance of an earthquake. When I leave my house in the middle of February, walking down two steps that are very often icy, I know I may fall and break that leg you mentioned. When I crawl behind the wheel of the Miata and drive a bit too fast (okay, sometimes a lot too fast), I know it may be the last time I drive at all. When I fall in love, and marry, and father a child, I do so knowing my child may be born with special needs.

I don't want a tornado, a broken leg, a car accident, or a suffering child, but every single one of those things, and thousands more, are the result of a long series of choices I've made throughout my life. They are, in fact, largely predictable. I don't want bad things, but I risk them every time I choose to pursue a good thing or, more frequently for many, choose a convenient thing (like spending a half hour doing something I enjoy instead of scraping the ice off my steps).

Yes, there are some choices that are made for us and beyond our control, but I honestly think those are exceptionally few. Most of the things that happen to us, both good and bad, can be traced to our own decisions. Most can even be foreseen, if not always believed or accepted. William Henley said it best over a hundred years ago, in the conclusion to his well known poem, Invictus. "I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul."

We can either believe the universe is random, in which case we can neither take credit for the good nor blame for the bad, or we can accept that our lives are our own responsibility. Choices have consequences is just another way of saying that our consequences are the result of our choices. Not always, perhaps, but certainly near enough that the exceptions only serve to prove the rule.
Local Rebel
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8 posted 04-27-2004 09:43 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Yes Ron, and if you wanted to add 'The answer lies not in our stars but ourselves' -- then I'd operationally say certainly so.  I agree with personal responsibility.  And it isn't that I think your concept is wrong -- it's that if we're looking at it philosophically it's accurate but imprecise.

Here's what I'm talking about -- your comment;

quote:

It's not a matter of whether your universe is inherently good or bad. Rather, it's a question of whether your own decisions were good or bad. Whether it's X or Y, or A or B, most of the things that happen to us happen because we chose for them to happen.



We can make 'good' decisions based on the input that is available.  There may be tangential factors that we can't know that may render a positive or negative effect on the outcome of our choice.  So to say that things happen to us because we chose for them to happen isn't the precise reality.  

It could possibly be better said that every outcome we experience involves decisions that we've made.  In some circumstances our decisions may be the dominant factor -- in others they may be simply noise.  Putting a quantitative value like 'most' really can't work either.  There is a distribution.  Not only amongst the range of events that we experience individually -- but from person to person as well.

How about if we say each person bears 100% of the responsibility for each decision he or she makes?

The reason that I'm making this (pretty uninteresting) distinction is because as you've worded it there is a very short walk to people deserving whatever they get -- and -- that's not really true -- because the underlying thread question is about bad things happening to good people and good things happening to bad people.

Nice guys don't finish first but, not every rich person is a theif either.

Ron
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9 posted 04-28-2004 02:03 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
There may be tangential factors that we can't know that may render a positive or negative effect on the outcome of our choice.

and there goes personal responsibility right out the window.

"But, officer, I didn't knoooooow."

More often, I think, the tangential factors are things we didn't know, didn't want to know, or thought were unimportant. Those are all a far cry from "can't know." Very, very rarely are we truly unable to know or unable to foresee.

I honestly don't think there can be such a thing as personal responsibility "most of the time." You either are or you aren't, and the former can't be based on how well one predicts possibilities, but rather on acceptance that the possibilities always exist.


berengar
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10 posted 04-28-2004 02:42 AM       View Profile for berengar   Email berengar   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for berengar

Ron
"I honestly don't think there can be such a thing as personal responsibility "most of the time." You either are or you aren't, and the former can't be based on how well one predicts possibilities, but rather on acceptance that the possibilities always exist. "

But to predict possibility it must first be predictable.  For something to be predictable we must, to some extent, be aware of it and/or be able to anticipate it.  There are a lot of contingencies involved for every decision, and who (with the exception of a supercomputer) could possibly anticipate all the branches of this decision tree, and therefore be responsible for them?
davidmerriman
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11 posted 11-06-2004 12:31 AM       View Profile for davidmerriman   Email davidmerriman   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit davidmerriman's Home Page   View IP for davidmerriman

to answer the first question, no.

there is no "good" or "bad" molecule in the universe.

"good" and "bad" are words we constructed for things that are socially accepted in our homo-sapien society.
 
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