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Posts Tagged ‘Voltaire’

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Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one.

-Voltaire

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[I watched a few minutes of interviews with some backers of our president* at his rally last night. I was struck by their absolute confidence even as they spoke words that were far removed from reality. This certitude worries me. How do you establish a working relationship with someone who simply denies all tangible proof that is contrary to their beliefs? It reminded me of this post from five years ago. My uncertainty now is much as it was then.]

Much of my work seemingly has a journey or a quest as its central theme. But the odd thing is that I don’t have a solid idea of what the object is that I am seeking in this work. I have thought it was many things over the years, things like wisdom and knowledge and inner peace and so on. But it comes down to a more fundamental level or at least I think so this morning. It may change by this afternoon.

I think I am looking for an end to doubt or at least coming to an acceptance of my own lack of answers for the questions that have often hung over us all.

I would say the search is for certainty but as Voltaire points out above, certainty is an absurd condition. That has been my view for some time as well. Whenever I feel certainty coming on in me in anything I am filled with an overriding anxiety.

I do not trust certainty.

I look at it as fool’s gold and when I see someone speak of anything with absolute certainty–particularly politicians and televangelists– I react with a certain degree of mistrust, probably because I see this absolutism leading to an extremism that has been the basis for many of the worst misdeeds throughout history. Wars and holocausts, slavery and genocide–they all arose from some the beliefs held by one party in absolute certainty.

So maybe the real quest is for a time and place where uncertainty is the order of the day, where certainty is vanquished. A place where no person can say with any authority that they are above anyone else, that anyone else can be subjugated to their certainty.

To say that we might be better off in a time with no certainty sounds absurd but perhaps to live in a time filled with absolute certainty is even more so.

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Doubt is not a pleasant condition but certainty is an absurd one.

–Voltaire

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GC Myers- Twilight WandererMuch of my work has a journey or a quest as its central theme and the odd thing is that I don’t have a solid idea of what the object is that I am seeking in this work.  I have thought it was many things over the years, things like wisdom and knowledge and inner peace and so on.  But it comes down to a more fundamental level or at least I think so this morning.  It may change by this afternoon.  I think the search is for an end to doubt or at least coming to an acceptance of my own lack of answers for the questions  that have often hung over us all.

I would say the search is for certainty but as Voltaire points out above, certainty is an absurd condition.  That has been my view for some time as well.  Whenever I feel certainty coming on in me in anything I am filled with an overriding  anxiety.  I do not trust certainty.  I look at it as fool’s gold and when I see someone speak of anything with absolute certainty–particularly politicians and televangelists– I react with a certain degree of mistrust, probably because I see this absolutism leading to an extremism that has been the basis for many of the worst misdeeds throughout history.  Wars and holocausts, slavery and genocide, they all arose from some the beliefs held by one party in absolute certainty.

So maybe the real quest is for a time and place where uncertainty is the order of the day, where certainty is vanquished.  A place where no person can say with any authority that they are above anyone else, that anyone else can be subjugated to their certainty.

To say that we might be better off in a time with no certainty sounds absurd but perhaps to live in a time of certainty is even more so.

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The painting at the top is called, fittingly, Seeking Uncertainty, and is a new 10″ by 20 painting on canvas that will be part of my upcoming solo show, Layers,  at the West End Gallery in Corning which opens July 25.

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Is there a gas leak  in here?
What the hell is going on lately?
You’ve got Joe Wilson screaming at President Obama.  Serena Williams melts down at the US Open, swearing at and threatening a line judge.   Kanye West jumps the stage at some MTV awards show taking the microphone from the surprised winner and berates the crowd because Beyonce didn’t win.  On Saturday,  thousands  ( not millions, not even hundreds of thousands) marched on Washington, still quivering with anger and screaming that they want their country back and that Muslims were taking over Washington.  Bury Obamacare With Kennedy signs were distributed through the crowd.  Classy.
Last night I flipped on the Yankees game and there on the screen was a writhing mass of players, flailing away at one another.  Base brawl.  This ugly edginess that has been so apparent of late had even reached into the very thing I was hoping would be a refuge from all this craziness.
Why this anger, why now?  I wish I had answers.  There has definitely been a coarsening of society, a loss of the niceties and manners that once defined civil society,  something that has been pointed out a lot lately.   Maybe it’s that people feel they have lost their voice and that the only way to be heard is to scream.  Maybe it’s just the fact that with all media being omnipresent, every word, every act is recorded.  There is no timeout, no stepping back from the glare of  the spotlights to stop and think about the effect of one’s actions.  Every action causes a reaction and suddenly, while one is still dealing with the initial action, there is the reaction to be faced.  And the reaction to that reaction.  And so on and so forth until the universe folds into itself and there is nothing but a great void.

angrymanIs there a gas leak in here?

What the hell is going on lately?

You’ve got Joe Wilson screaming at President Obama. Serena Williams melts down at the US Open, swearing at and threatening a line judge. Kanye West jumps the stage at some MTV awards show taking the microphone from the surprised winner and berates the crowd because Beyonce didn’t win. On Saturday, thousands ( not millions, not even hundreds of thousands) marched on Washington, still quivering with anger and screaming that they want their country back and that Muslims were taking over Washington. Bury Obamacare With Kennedy signs were distributed through the crowd. Classy.

Last night I flipped on the Yankees game and there on the screen was a writhing mass of players, flailing away at one another. Base brawl. This ugly edginess that has been so apparent of late had even reached into the very thing I was hoping would be a refuge from all this craziness.

beckWhy this anger, why now? I wish I had answers. There has definitely been a coarsening of society, a loss of the niceties and manners that once defined civil society, something that has been pointed out a lot lately. Maybe it’s that people feel they have lost their voice and that the only way to be heard is to scream. Maybe it’s just the fact that with all media being omnipresent, every word, every act is recorded. There is no timeout, no stepping back from the glare of the spotlights to stop and think about the effect of one’s actions. Every action causes a reaction and suddenly, while one is still dealing with the initial action, there is the reaction to be faced. And the reaction to that reaction. And so on and so forth until the universe folds into itself and there is nothing but a great void.

Okay, that’s the worst that could happen.  But the fact remains, we are a nation spoiling for a fight at the moment.  Can we simmer down without boiling over?  I don’t know.  Hope so, but the idea of thoughtful, civil discussion on any matter seems like a pipedream at the moment.  Especially given the invective and prodding from guys like Beck and Limbaugh whose very livelihoods depend on this anger and division being kept alive.  I just hope we can all take a breath and  find common ground to stand on.  Let’s just  hope our better angels haven’t flown the coop…

Just remember the words of Voltaire:

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

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