Monday, September 19, 2016

"Self/Less": A Movie Review.

A second attack on this text has resulted in yet more alterations in the size of letters. I will try, once again, to repair the harm done. Copyright protection and Constitutional rights, shockingly, are meaningless for officials in New Jersey and those allowing for the continuation of this farce. ("No More Cover-Ups and Lies Chief Justice Rabner!")

An international audience seems to be learning a great deal about the workings of the American legal system and the integrity of U.S. law enforcement personnel. ("An Open Letter to Cyrus Vance, Jr., Esq.")

" ... Mr. Foye reminded [Mr. Baroni, i.e., Chris Christie,] that ambulances had been caught in the gridlock caused by the lane closings -- that 'someone could have died.' ..."

Kate Zernike & Noah Remnick, "Port Authority Chief Testifies Christie Ally Pressured Him to Reclose Lanes to Bridge," The New York Times, September 22, 2016, p. A25 (emphasis added). 

Many innocent lives and much suffering is perpetuated by continuing computer warfare and censorship aimed against me. ("Have you no shame Mr. Rabner?") 

The first posting of the essay appearing below was marred by deformations of the text that included alterations in the size of letters. I will do my best to cope with these violations of the work that seem to come from New Jersey government officials and computers. I am far from surprised that persons in the Garden State are still permitted to commit such crimes. ("Christie and Mastro Accuse Each Other of Lying" and "Anthony Ardis Goes to Jail.")

Google seems to have altered the print feature of my blog so that I can no longer "simplify" a page when printing items. My book orders from local bookshops seem to be delayed, perhaps allowing officials to be informed concerning my reading choices, and online selections undergo a similar process of obstruction and review, presumably on the part of police and/or prosecutors acting illegally. 

"Self/Less": Director: Tarsem Singh; Writers: David Pastor and Alex Pastor; Starring: Sir Ben Kingsley as "Damian Hale"; Ryan Reynolds as "Edward Kidner"; Natalie Martinez as "Madeline"; Mathew Goode as "Albright"; Michelle Dockery as "Claire"; Melona Hardin as "Judy"; Victor Garber as "Martin"; Derek Luke as "Anton"; Cinematographer: Brendan Galvin; Editor: Robert Duffy; Release Date: July 10, 2015; Running Time: 115 Minutes; Rated PG-13.

Alternative Reviews: 

Brian Tallerico, "Selfless Movie Review & Film Summary," (2015) http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/selfless/-2015.

"Self/Less," http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/self/less. 

"Coming of age in the universe." 

Tarsem Singh is a philosophically-minded film director whose previous movies (with a single exception) are unknown to me. I will make it a point to see "The Fall." 

Mr. Singh's latest work "Self/Less" is a subtle meditation on questions of personal identity, individualism in Western terms, compared with (or set against) communitarianism (in global terms) that also touches on the most profound metaphysical mysteries concerning responsibility and love that define the boundaries of selfhood, or the point of any life's journey.

The title of the movie has been listed as "Self/less" and "Self/Less." The second version makes more sense to me. ("'Inception': A Movie Review.") 

These are the traditional issues associated with the "What-is-the-meaning-of-life?" question that analytical philosophers today are much too scientific and professional to answer. ("Is clarity enough?")

The wisdom of the movie has to do with the lessons learned by the protagonist "Mathew Hale" -- who is in "hell" at the start of the story -- about transcending selfishness, or possessive individualism and greed, in order to appreciate as well as accept the "overlapping boundaries of selfhood" that constitutes true human identity by way of "being with" (involvement) with others. ("John Finnis and Ethical Cognitivism" and "The Allegory of the Cave.")  

We are told that self-giving to others is only another way of speaking of love. ("Drawing Room Comedy: A Philosophical Essay in the Form of a Film Script" and "Faust in Manhattan.")  

The moral lesson concerning sacrifice of the ego is found in all of the world's great religions, of course, but it is certainly central to the ethics of Hinduism that may have been a formative influence on Mr. Singh. 

This ancient wisdom is also captured in the metaphor of the transmigration of souls, reincarnation, rebirth -- the "virgin birth" in Western terms -- that may take place for any of us without actually experiencing our deaths or the destruction of our fragile bodies. Gillian Rose, Love's Work: A Reckoning With Life (New York: Shocken Books, 1995), pp. 59-106. 

The film suggests that spiritual death is entrapment in ego. Greed, hatreds, desire to dominate others is the disease that kills millions of people and is bringing about the obliteration of our world often by placing persons in golden cages (Mr. Trump?) before it does so.

Perhaps it is fitting that some scenes featuring the dying billionaire were shot, allegedly, in the famous "Trump Tower" in New York. ("Inummerate Ethics" and "Roberto Unger's Revolutionary Legal Theory.")

The goal of the self is "selflessness" or return to what Buddhists describe as "the primal unity of self-and-world." The process of "unselfing" (Iris Murdoch) is what the Hindu scriptures call Nirvana. (This "undelfing" is described in the great texts of Hinduism as "coming of age in the universe.")

It is only the maturing of the soul that makes the death of any individual body meaningless. Houston Smith, The Religions of Man (New York: Harper & Row, 1958), pp. 14-90, pp. 90-159 ("Hinduism, Buddhism") and Josiah Royce, Lectures on Modern Idealism (New Haven: Yale U. Press, 1919), pp. 115-213 then T.L.S. Sprigge, The Vindication of Absolute Idealism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh U. Press, 1983) on "panpsychism" and T.L.S. Sprigge, "Spinoza: His Identity Theory," in Ted Honderich, ed., Philosophy Through its Past (London: Pelican, 1984), pp. 149-174. 

Mr. Singh has some fun with his characters by dramatizing familiar puzzles from analytical philosophy focusing on the metaphysics of personal identity -- what are called "reduplication" problems in "reincarnation cases" (Bernard Williams) -- happily discarding the various solutions offered by Western thought to these conundrums: the bodily criterion, materialism, mind/body dualism, individualism as distinct from social identity theories, opting for the psychological (including memory) criterion found in Mind independent of any particular body but necessarily contained in some embodied form. ("Derek Parfit's Ethics" then "The Galatea Scenario and the Mind/Body Problem" and "'Ex Machina': A Movie Review.")

Western science, including psychoanalysis and psychology, are satirized and found somewhat guilty of the "sin" of excessive individualism which is a kind of selfishness. Amelie Oskenberg Rorty, ed., The Identities of Persons (Los Angeles, New York & London: U. Ca. Press, 1969), entirety, and Amelie Oskenberg Rorty, ed., Explaining Emotions (New York & London: U. Ca. Press, 1980), pp. 507-519. (See my discussion below of the "Sleeping Beauty" paradox in epistemology and logic.) 

More than one mind can inhabit a single brain and body in our story without necessarily learning to share nicely. Numerous cases of split personality are very well documented in psychological journals. Kathleen V. Wilkes, Real People: Personal Identity Without Thought Experiments (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1988), pp. 132-168. ("Being in two minds.")

It may be best to set forth the different levels of meaning and the ideas in the movie by summarizing the plot with philosophical excursions and digressions along the way in order to conclude with my assessments of the performances and general success of the work.

Before embarking on this analysis, however, I should point out that the script displays impressive training in analytical philosophy on the part of one (or both) writers. 

The plot dramatizes and manages to comment upon famous thought experiments discussed by distinguished thinkers such as Bernard Williams, David Wiggins, Robert Nozick, Peter Strawson and Iris Murdoch among many others:  

"Let us suppose, however, that surgeons in the twenty-first century are able to connect the nerves from Brown's brain to the nerves in Robinson's body. The result of the operation, call him Brownson, will then be a completely healthy person, without any paralysis, with Robinson's body, but in character, memories and personality quite indistinguishable from Brown, and this not as a consequence of some freak accident, but because of his possession of Brown's brain [consciousness] (there might be a problem about how Brown's personality can express itself in the Robinson body if we imagine that the two bodies are very dissimilar in appearance, so, for the sake of the example, let us imagine that this is not so; let us imagine in fact that Robinson is Brown's double). Now who will this person be?"

Harold Noonan, Personal Identity (London & New York: Routledge, 1991), pp. 4-5. 

Professor Noonan discusses medical cases where the two hemispheres of the brain are severed resulting in "twin cognitive identities" developing in patients each unaware of what the opposite "side" of the body/self is "doing" along with examples of severe psychosis producing distinct "personalities" in patients -- sometimes personalities of different races and genders that are entirely unaware of each other -- inhabiting the same physical body. 

In fact, there are documented instances of persons literally seeing very different faces staring back at them from mirrors over short periods of time: one face exists in the morning; while in the afternoon, the very same individual staring in a mirror will encounter a younger person of a different race (or gender) staring back at him/her. 

Persons suffering from these disturbances are often unable to account for the phenomenon or to explain exactly who is "inside" their minds and bodies. R.D. Laing, Self and Other (London: Tavistock, 1961), pp. 29-114, a second edition of this work appeared in 1969. Dr. Laing's classic study of schizophrenia is still unsurpassed: R.D. Laing, The Divided Self (London: Tavistock, 1960).  

Compare A.W. Moore, "On Neither Wanting to Die Nor Wanting to Live Forever," Oxford Philosophy, Summer, 2010, p. 10 with A.W. Moore, The Evolution of Modern Metaphysics: Making Sense of Things (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 2012), pp. 44-64. 

Are we skin-encapsulated egos?  

Donald J. Trump-like billionaire "Damien Hale" (Sir Ben Kingsley) is suffering from terminal cancer. Even as Hale is dying, however, he feels the need to avenge the slightest insults or wounds to his giant ego, continues to accumulate wealth while refusing to accept the different life-choices made by a neglected daughter "Claire" (played by Michelle Dockery). 

Informed by "Professor Albright" (Mathew Goode) of a new medical procedure called "shedding" that allows for the transference of the dying person's consciousness to what is ostensibly an "artificially grown healthy body" for a mere $250 million, Damien decides to undergo the procedure so as to "defeat" death. 

Death is initially understood in Western terms as the adversary of life and love in order for the protagonist to achieve the wisdom to accept death in more Eastern terms as the fulfillment and completion of life. 

The journey undertaken in the story, as I have indicated, is from greed and possessive individualism towards altruism and ethical awareness or concern for others that involves a kind of dispossessing of the self or giving away of "things." ("Law and Literature" and "Innumerate Ethics.") 

The central myth associated with this narrative in the Western tradition is the legend of Faust. Today Lucifer is a scientist. Science performs all the miracles now. Science is also feared for its ambiguous destructive power. American anti-intellectualism often demonizes scientists and scholars of all sorts. This film is no exception. 

There always seem to be unexpected and usually nefarious side-effects accompanying scientific achievements, especially in movies. Splitting the atom leads to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of persons; industrialization and new technologies produce lethal pollutants and climate warming. 

Materialism in the form of the bodily criterion of personal identity (which most persons take for granted) is rejected in this narrative. Mr. Hale's body (including his brain) dies. Damien Hale is reduced to "neurological patterns" that we are told constitute his "consciousness" or "mind" which is then transferred to a new body formerly known as "Edward Kidner" (Ryan Reynolds). Presumably this is not "the artist formerly known as Prince." ("The Galatea Scenario and the Mind/Body Problem.")

Please compare Stephen Priest, Theories of the Mind (New York & Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991), pp. 154-161 (embodied minds) with Robert Nozick, Philosophical Explanations (Cambridge: Harvard U. Press, 1981), pp. 29-114. ("The identity of the self.")

The new name, "Edward Kidner," clues us in to the "kidney-donor"-like status of this fascinating character. Edward's body -- presumably his body is something distinct from Edward -- was not in fact grown in a laboratory, but belonged to a "real" human being (not an actor?) forced by need for funds (are we sure this is not about an actor?) to cure his daughter's illness by sacrificing his body as, indeed, many persons in the world that Mr. Hale rarely considers sell their "organs" or their freedom and sexual parts out of desperation or misery. No, actors and their "images" and "personas" are often not "real" human beings. ("'Unknown': A Movie Review" and "'The Adjustment Bureau': A Movie Review.") 

Mind cannot survive without a body providing a unitary "perspective." Hence, the artists behind this film seem to believe (for the purposes of the story) in a form of transcendental idealism which is currently very much in vogue: Ken Wilber, The Spectrum of Consciousness (London: The Theosophical Society, 1985), pp. 82-106 and Rupert Sheldrake, The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Inquiry (London: Coronet, 2012), pp. 212-231. ("Are minds confined to the brain?")

A number of developments in science are compatible with the rich metaphysical tradition of Hinduism and Buddhist theories of identity: Amit Goswami, Ph.D., The Quantum Doctor: A Quantum Physicist Explains the Healing Power of Integral Medicine (Charlottsville: Hampton Roads, 2004), pp. 169-219 ("Mind/Body Medicine") and Amit Goswami, Ph.D., The Self-Aware Universe: How Consciousness Creates the Material World (London & New York: Penguin, 1995), pp. 37-40 ("Probability Distribution ").

More importantly, perhaps, sacrifice as "self-becoming" is the central theme in the film. Sacrifice is associated with a "person's" willing loss of ego, or with loving as an "other-regarding" emotion. See Iris Murdoch's novel, The Message to the Planet (New York & London: Penguin, 1991) and Iris Murdoch, Existentialists and Mystics: Writings On Philosophy and Literature (London: Penguin, 1997), pp. 221-235 then Terence Cave, "Fictional Identities," in Henry Harris, ed., Identity (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), pp. 99-129. (Is "Edward Kidner" any more fictional than "Ryan Reynolds"?)

Albright prescribes medication (red pills in tribute to The Matrix) to alleviate vivid hallucinations suggesting to Mr. Hale that his delightfully convenient new body was actually another human being with needs, loves, sufferings and joys as important and genuine as Mr. Hale's feelings. 

There is a moment in the movie when Mr. Hale/Edward explains to a beautiful young woman that he "hasn't seen anything like this in fifty years ..." which alone is worth the cost of this movie for me. 

The billions of "little people" who make the world turn (as Leona Hemsley explained) are, shockingly, as real and should be as important as the so-called "movers-and-shakers" celebrated in American folklore. 

It is often the suffering and sacrifices of such "little people" that makes possible "our" comforts as members of the privileged classes in the First World. 

Having relocated to New Orleans and enjoying the possibilities (athletic and otherwise) of his new physical envelope, befriended (allegedly) by "Anton" (Derek Luke), who demonstrates the ephemeral nature of such trivial matters as race in this brave new world, Mr. Hale/Edward is tormented by the memories of his predecessor as the occupant of "his" new body. To whom do memories "belong"? ("What is memory?" and "Out of the Past.") 

Images of the woman loved by Edward named "Madeline" (beautifully acted by Natalie Martinez) and their now healthy and lovely young daughter, Anna, drive the protagonist to find this woman and child who constitute his "other life." 

This other life, strangely, feels more satisfying and meaningful than Hale's privileged existence despite the difference between Hale and Edward in terms of material wealth. This new feeling raises the question as to which of the two characters, Edward or Hale, is more "successful"?

Ms. Martinez possesses a husky and musical voice as well as an exquisite smile that leads me to understand Edward's affections.

This film provides the best performance by Ryan Reynolds that I have seen. There is a genuine acting challenge in communicating -- often on the basis of subtle expression and gesture beyond the script -- the experience of a seventy-year-old man in a thirty-year-old "body." 

It is my understanding that Mr. Reynolds (or is that Ryan Gosling?) is starring with Harrison Ford in the forthcoming sequel to "Blade Runner." I am eagerly looking forward to that movie.

There are well-documented cases of severe fugue states or profound schizophrenic reactions in psychotics where the afflicted persons report experiences that exactly reflect some of the adventures undergone by Edward/Hale in this story: Chris C. Sizemore, "Real 'Three Faces of Eve,' Dies at 89," The New York Times, Sunday News, August 7, 2016, p. 20. (Ms. Costner-Sizemore developed more than 20 distinct personalities that were documented by researchers.) 

Attempts are made to silence "Mr. Hale" by killing Edward's body. Bodies seem to come and go in this movie, but "selves" endure transcending the confinements of material or physical vessels and revealing the true meaning of Dr. Francis Jensen's "transhumanism": the boundaries of the self are mere illusions. 

At the conclusion of his journey Mr. Hale/Edward will come to terms with Claire through expressing his love and by accepting her life-choices, also the finality of death, and not merely through the provision of money. 

Hale yields to the claims of Edward to a chance at life by giving his place to another (or others) with grace, dignity, and peace. 

Hale chooses mortality so that another person (or persons) can live. 

Mr. Reynolds is playing a Third World or Latino character in this movie -- or a blue collar American of indeterminate ethnicity -- to depict the universal humanity of this man that in turn allows audience members to identify with Edward's experiences whatever they think of Damien Hale and regardless of what their own race(s) or ethnicity(ies) may be. 

This is a remarkable achievement (which is far from easy) that suggests possible global superstar status for Mr. Reynolds in the years to come. 

Action sequences and firefights make the movie entertaining to the mostly male audience -- together with their long-suffering girlfriends -- who will see the film numerous times detecting the implied associations with "Jason Bourne" and "James Bond."

"The connection [with others,] says Schopenhauer, is fellow-feeling, compassion, and this in turn rests on self-identification. 'To a certain extent I have identified myself with the other man, and in consequence the barrier between the ego and non-ego is for the moment abolished; only then do the other man's affairs, his needs, distress, and suffering, directly become my own. I no longer look at him as if he were something given to me by empirical intuitive perception, as something different from me. On the contrary, I share the suffering in him, in spite of the fact that his skin does not enclose my nerves. Only in this way can his woes, his distress, become a motive for me; otherwise it could be absolutely my own. I repeat that this occurrence is mysterious, for it is something our faculty of reason can give no direct account of, and its grounds cannot be discovered on the path of experience. And yet it happens every day; everyone has often experienced it within himself; even to the most hard-hearted and selfish [persons] it is not unknown. Every day it comes before our eyes, in single acts on a small scale.' ..."

Finally,

" ... Empathy and compassion are made possible, [Schopenhauer] tells us, by the fact that each of us is, in his inmost nature, at one with the noumenal, [Altman, or "Worldsoul,"] and the noumenal is one and undifferentiable; therefore all of us in our deepest nature are one with each other, are undifferentiable from each other. I am not merely similar to other human beings -- it is merely on the surface that similarity appears: at the bottom they and I are literally one and the same thing. ... Morality is practical metaphysics."

Bryan Magee, "Metaphysics of the Person," in The Philosophy of Schopenhauer (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1983), pp. 196-197, pp. 198-199 then Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, Volumes I & II, (New York: Dover, 1969), pp. 334-412 (in Volume I) and Baruch Spinoza, Ethics (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 2002), "Book IV, "Of Human Servitude or Bondage" and Bernard Williams, "The Makropolous Case: Reflections on the Tedium of Immortality," in Problems of the Self: Philosophical Papers 1956-1972 (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1973), pp. 82-101. 

Are "transcendence of the ego" and personal identity merely "probability assignments" based on memory?   

"On Sunday, Sleeping Beauty is told that a coin will be tossed. If the coin comes up tails, then she will be woken up [sic.] Monday and on Tuesday with memory erasure in-between, as in the simplified version. If the coin comes up heads, then she will be woken up on Monday alone. [And without memory erasure.] It doesn't matter for present purposes if the coin toss is interpreted as a classical event described by objective chance or as a quantum event (described by many-worlds branching). The question at the heart of the paradox is what probability Sleeping Beauty should assign to 'heads' when she wakes up at T1. The dominant ('Thirder') view [shared by Tarsem Singh] is that the answer is 1/3 (Elga 2000); the minority ('halfer') view [shared by me] is that the answer is 1/2 (Lewis)."

Compare Peter Lewis, "Quantum Sleeping Beauty," http://www.analysis.oxfordjournals.org/content/67/1159.full with Bernard d'Espagnat, "Quantum Weirdness: What we call reality is just a state of mind," http://www.theguardian.com/science/blogs/2009/mar/17/templeton-quantum-entanglement then see Rupert Sheldrake, Morphic Resonance: The Nature of Formative Causation (Vermont: Park Street Press, 2009), pp. 42-65 and Paul Davies, The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World (New York: Touchstone, 1993), pp. 19-39. (See the film "Fifty First Dates.")

Hale's/Edward's character(s) and dilemma provides a number references to "Schrodinger's Cat" in the famous quantum physics hypothetical as well as, or in relation to, the "Sleeping Beauty" paradox in epistemology and logic. ("Dialectics, Entanglement, and Special Relativity.") 

Which version of Hale/Edward emerges from a number of quantum probability assignments depends on the entanglements or "dialectical relations" developing with Madeline and Claire as well as other persons encountered in each of the "branching case" narrative options offered by the movie. ("'Westworld': A Review of the T.V. Series.")

We all become many selves in our various lives depending on the others to whom we "orient ourselves" as Jean-Paul Sartre expresses it. ("The Galatea Scenario and the Mind/Body Problem" then "Metaphor is Mystery" and "Magician's Choice.") 

Compare "Immanuel Kant and the Narrative of Freedom" with my book: Paul Ricoeur and the Hermeneutics of Freedom (North Carolina: Lulu, 2004) ("The Hermeneutics of Freedom"). 

Identity rather than being a fixed quality, something relatively static as it was for many persons in past decades, is transformed these days into a much more dynamic, fluid, ephemeral quality of selves floating in the social world then disappearing into the protean "branching" possibilities conjured by constantly altering relationships in a world where the scenery is shifting all the time. ("Conversation on a Train" and "Hansel and Gretl.")

Mr. Singh, wisely, offers narrative choices for you, the audience member, to make on behalf of these characters and the meaning or trajectory of our story. ("Bernard Williams and Identity" and "Is it rational to believe in God?")

Optimistically, the meaning of the film is that Damian Hale has learned the ultimate moral lesson leading to peace and self-fulfillment with the relinquishing of mere "things" and by accepting his mortality even as Edward has earned the right to his life and loves. 

The movie belongs to you after you have seen it and shared the adventure with these characters. ("'Total Recall': A Movie Review" and "'Interstellar': A Movie Review.")

The quantum universe that is under construction by each of us, similarly, belongs to every one of us. ("Images and Death.")

Reality may be seen as very bad and frightening; or just the opposite, as the only locus of meaning and beauty where goodness and truth are meant to triumph even if they often seem quite elusive. ("'Inception': A Movie Review" and "'Ex Machina': A Movie Review.") 

Success for the artists creating this work lies in the fact that you cannot help caring about these characters whose adventures and feelings are now "real" since you have shared them. 

Perhaps this is the director's subtle hint concerning identity: What and who "we" are is always a matter of negotiation and struggle, something shared, given and taken, no less fictional in the end than is Hale/Edward or this entire adventure and no less quickly vanishing into the cultural ether. 

All of these things -- the meaning of "Self/Less," as a work of art, and your meaning -- are dependent upon the choices and relationships which we make that then make (and remake) us in turn. Dialectics. 

There is a deliberate echo of Prospero's closing monologue in Shakespeare's "Tempest" as we recall that our story (despite all the action sequences) is really about death and transcendence whatever these things mean for us and no matter what else we see in the narrative. 

With the dissolution of Hale's personality there is a restoration and resolution or definition of Edward's persona and life. 

We all must leave the scene so that others may have their all-too-brief moments in the limelight. Like Tarsem Singh we will all soon have to "abjure magic, drown our books, ... and leave not a rack behind." 

I wonder whether Mr. Singh has reached what is laughingly called "middle age"? (''In Time': A Movie Review.")

The lesson reinforced here is about "letting go" of the illusions by which we distract ourselves from mortality through trying to forget what matters in life. ("Shakespeare's Black Prince" and "'The English Patient': A Movie Review.")

We must either learn to love one another and share ourselves, willingly, or we die spiritually long before we die physically. 

"In many spiritual traditions," Robert Solomon writes, "the purpose of life itself becomes the achievement of such a [spiritual] transformation. For some, it could happen in a moment, like St. Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus. For others, it may take a lifetime of ritual and practice, like those Tibetan monks whose self-discipline is legendary. For most people, the transformation of self may be nothing more than total immersion in a group and a tradition. But for those of us who enjoy the mixed blessing of seeing beyond all traditions and thus finding ourselves without an anchor in the world, spirituality is rather an arduous process, filled with doubts and misgivings, skeptical of glib formulations and platitudes, frustrated with the limitations of the personalities we have worked so hard to create over the course of a hard-headed lifetime. But if the self to which spirituality and philosophy refers is nothing other than the everyday self, neither is it just the every day self, and ... the tremendous effort to discover or realize our better selves is what spirituality is all about. Thus, to borrow an old observation from Hegel, spirituality is a process rather than a result. This may seem far less than the true enlightenment that spirituality often promises, but this naturalized notion of spirituality is, in this narcissistic and materialist age, something worth striving for."

The point is finally very simple:

"The soul meets spirit and spirituality, not only in suffering but in cosmic joy [emphasis added] and humor as well, what Nietzsche famously referred to as the Dyonysian aspect of human life."

Spirituality For the Skeptic: The Thoughtful Love of Life (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2002), p. 140. 

I have quoted from Robert Solomon's final book which was written as the author was dying. Only a person in such a condition, perhaps, may speak of death in association with humor and joy because it can provide a sense of closure and fulfillment to a life well-lived.       

         



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