Utopian Follies – WIF Idealistic Travel

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Experimental Towns

and Communes

The notion of a utopia—a perfect, egalitarian, and harmonious paradise on Earth—has been a recurring theme in literature and storytelling for hundreds of years. It all started with the philosopher Plato’s book Republic, and it’s since been expressed in other books including Thomas More’s Utopia and Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, as well as in films like Lost Horizon and Things to Come. All this discussion of an ideal and peaceful society has encouraged many people to try and bring these ideas into reality through spiritual communes and new forms of community organization. Whether or not any of the following ten examples actually succeeded is definitely up for debate, but there’s no denying that they work as some interesting experiments in formulating new ways of living.

10. Arcosanti

View of Arcosanti from the southeast, showing buildings from Crafts III on the far left to the guestrooms in the right foreground

View of Arcosanti from the southeast, showing buildings from Crafts III on the far left to the guestrooms in the right foreground

In the desert 70 miles north of Phoenix lies Arcosanti, an experimental town built in 1970 that claims to be an attempt to discover the perfect fusion of architecture and ecology. As imagined by architectural mastermind Paolo Soleri, all the buildings within the city are designed so that they and the people who live in them can work in harmony with their environment. With this in mind, many buildings at the site are multi-use, and all make use of solar power for heating, cooling, and electricity. Arcosanti itself is less of a community than it is a school. Workshops are held throughout the year in order to teach people how to build in Soleri’s unique style, and it is these students—along with the 50 or so teachers who make up the town’s permanent population—who have constructed most of the buildings on the 25-acre site. image: http://www.chromasomatic.com

Community Philosophy:

At the heart of Arcosanti’s philosophy is a strong belief in teaching people to live smarter. The community is meant to serve as an example of how urban centers could run more cheaply and efficiently with just a few design adjustments. For example, many of the buildings at the site are made to reflect the changing seasons, so that a maximum amount of sunlight is allowed in during the winter and a minimum amount during the summer. Meanwhile, the planning of the city itself avoided a typical grid layout in favor of a more courtyard-oriented style, which the residents say encourages community interaction.

9. Auroville

Image result for Auroville

One of the hallmarks of these experimental communities is an emphasis on love and peace, usually as filtered through a heavy dose of new age philosophy. Auroville, a multicultural city in southern India, is a perfect example. Since its inception, the town has worked to realize what its website calls “human unity” and the “transformation of consciousness.” The colony was started in the late sixties by Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Richard, and its central philosophy is a belief that society will learn to progress forward only after people of many nations and cultures have learned to live together in harmony. The community works to act as a miniature experiment in world peace. Its over 2,000 residents hail from more than 40 different nations, and they all live and work together with a mind toward finding new and unique ways to achieve balance and harmony among people of different races, religions, and political backgrounds.

Community Philosophy:

Residents of Auroville are expected to build their own house and make donations to the community fund, but beyond this all necessities—including public school, utilities, and health care—are covered by the community, which is itself partially financed by the Indian government. There is no form of hard currency within the commune; rather, all residents use an account system that connects to a central bank. The city is designed in the shape of a circle, around which are areas containing gardens, farmland, an educational and cultural center, and a so-called “peace area” where silence is enforced at all times.

8. Findhorn Ecovillage

Scotland’s Findhorn Ecovillage is perhaps the most notable example of a community founded on principles of environmental sustainability and renewable energy. The commune was started in the 1960s, but it didn’t take on its current form until 1982, when residents made a concerted effort to show that an environmentally unobtrusive community could flourish both socially and economically. The village still exists today, and has been noted as having the smallest environmental footprint of any town in the modern world. This is thanks to an ecologically friendly building code that encourages the use of found materials—several houses are built from recycled whiskey barrels— along with wind turbines and a water treatment apparatus called the “Living Machine,” which makes use of algae, snails, and plant life to purify the community’s water supply.

Community Philosophy:

Part of Findhorn’s intended commitment to sustainability is an emphasis on autonomy. The village’s 350 residents have their own school, arts center, and businesses, which include everything from printmaking to pottery. There is even an independent currency, called the Eko, which is accepted at all community businesses. Beyond its ecological goals, the village has also gained a reputation—to some controversy—for espousing a new age philosophy of spiritualism and holistic health. Findhorn offers retreats that claim to assist in achieving sound mental health, and the organization has even put out a therapeutic board game that it claims can be “a substantial way of understanding and transforming key issues in your life.”

7. Pullman, Illinois

Greenstone Church and the Arcade park in Pullman, Chicago.

Greenstone Church and the Arcade park in Pullman, Chicago.

Though these communities are always started with the very best of intentions, sometimes the line between utopia and dystopia can get a little blurry. Such was the case with Pullman, Illinois, a company town that started as its own workers’ paradise and gradually degraded into an outright dictatorship. The town was conceived by George Pullman, a powerful industrialist who’d made his fortune building ornate and expensive sleeping cars for passenger trains. In 1880, Pullman purchased several thousand acres of land on the outskirts of Chicago with a mind toward building a new factory. Thinking that he could also satisfy his workers by giving them a nice, safe place to live, Pullman had his architect design a miniature town around the factory. The town featured elaborate Victorian architecture and included its own school, shopping centers, theatre, library, church, and even a man-made lake.

Community Philosophy:

For the first few years, the town of Pullman seemed to be a remarkable success. It was used as an exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair, and it regularly won awards for being one of the best places to live in the country. But beneath its quaint exterior, Pullman was hiding a dark secret. Most troubling of all was that George Pullman ran the town like a despot. He banned certain business (like saloons) from opening nearby, forbade the town from starting an independent newspaper, and regularly had inspectors search through employees’ homes for signs of damage or lack of cleanliness. Employees often protested his baron-like behavior, but they had no recourse, since the town and all its 1400 structures were entirely owned by the company. When he lowered wages in 1894, things quickly turned violent, and a large-scale strike in Pullman had to broken up by the military. In the wake of this incident, the government looked into the legality of the town of Pullman and deemed it “un-American.” It was then broken up and later annexed by the city of Chicago.

6. The Harmony Society Communities

Religious Utopian communities were all the rage in the 1800s, and the communes started by the Harmony Society are some of the most famous examples. The society formed in Germany in the late 1700s, but their mystical take on Christianity soon drew the ire of the Lutheran Church.  A group led by Johann Georg Rapp immigrated to the Pennsylvania in 1803, and it was there that they decided to establish the first of what would eventually be three independent communes. Their Pennsylvania settlement, called Harmony, proved incredibly successful, and it eventually boasted a population of over 800 followers. The residents sold the land for a profit after ten years and started a new commune in Indiana, but they returned to Pennsylvania in 1824 and formed a third commune, which they called Economy.

Community Philosophy:

The Harmony Society’s theosophist religious convictions meant that they had very strict behavioral codes. Chief among them were strong beliefs in temperance, celibacy, and equality. Members rejected worldly possessions, eschewed sexual relationships—including marriage, to a certain extent—and practiced nonviolence. Rapp acted as the community’s resident prophet, and made several predictions about the imminent return of Jesus to the Earth. When his predictions didn’t come true, many members abandoned the community, but it managed to survive well until after Rapp’s death in 1847. Economy, PA finally dissolved in the early 1900s, both because of an ever mounting debt and because the residents’ celibacy guaranteed that there was no new generation left to take over.

5. The Federation of Damanhur

Named after an ancient Egyptian city, the Federation of Damanhur is a Utopian commune located outside of Turin, Italy. It was started in the ‘70s by Oberto Airaudi and a small group of followers, and today it counts as many as 800 citizens among its ranks. There are even offshoot centers for the group located as far away as the U.S. and Japan. The community refers to itself as a “collective dream” where “spiritual, artistic, and social research” takes place. The group prizes environmental sustainability, artistic expression, and optimism above all else, and meditation and self-knowledge are considered fundamental to personal growth.  But while this philosophy might not seem extraordinary, the way it is expressed certainly is. This was most apparent in 1992, when the group revealed a series of striking underground temples—supposedly a monument to peace and the power of human collaboration—that they had been constructing since the late ‘70s.

Community Philosophy:

Damanhur, though not sovereign from Italy, operates as though it were its own independent nation. There is a constitution, a currency called “credito,” and an independent infrastructure, and at this point there are even grown children who were born in the community and have lived there all their life. Perhaps most interesting is the community’s style of marriage, which works on a contract system. Prior to their wedding, couples decide on a period of time that the marriage will last. Once that period has elapsed, the two can either go their separate ways or agree to renew the marriage for a new span of time.

4. The Farm

Communal living experienced a renaissance with the rise of the hippie movement, when thousands of young people dropped out of society and attempted to form independent, utopian communities. The biggest and most notable of them all is certainly a town in Summerton, Tennessee known only as “The Farm.” The town was the brainchild of Stephen Gaskin, a creative writing teacher from San Francisco who led a caravan of cars and busses across the country to Tennessee, where they bought a 1,000-acre tract of land on a former cattle ranch. The Farm soon became legendary in underground culture, and as new members journeyed to Tennessee from around the country, the community soon grew into a miniature metropolis of tents and log cabins. By 1980, there were over 1,000 people living at the Farm.

Community Philosophy:

In the early days, residents of The Farm took a “vow of poverty” and swore off tobacco, alcohol, and all animal products. All possessions were communal, and residents regularly engaged in group marriages. These restrictions have since loosened, but the community still maintains a steadfast devotion to vegetarianism and environmentally friendly living, and today it works as an ecovillage where all power is generated through solar panels and biofuels. It also has an acclaimed school of midwifery, a book publishing company, and a grade school. Residents have even spearheaded a number of different charitable endeavors around the world. The community went through some tough time in the 80s, and many of the original members abandoned it, but it’s still around today, and as many as 175 people live and work there year round.

3. Israeli Kibbutzim

The term “kibbutz” doesn’t refer to one specific community, but rather to a form of experimental living that became popular in Israel in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The term itself can be translated as “gathering,” and it’s used to describe the numerous cooperative communes that were founded by Jewish immigrants in Palestine prior to the creation of Israel. Many came to the Middle East from Russia to be pioneer farmers, and they chose to live collectively because it allowed for greater safety and a more efficient way of growing crops. Most kibbutzim had about 200 members, and by 1950 there were as many as 60,000 people living in the communes all across Israel. The communities were originally started purely as Jewish farming ventures, but by the ‘30s many had taken on a socialist philosophy, and some of the kibbutzim with more Utopian goals began to allow people of all religions to join.

Community Philosophy:

A key philosophy of these kibbutzim was a devotion to equality. All major decisions were made communally in group meetings. Women were seen as equals to men, and were even required to serve as armed guards at times. There were no personal possessions—not even clothing—and even children were considered to belong to the community at large. Most grew up living with one another in their own communal house, and they spent little time with their parents outside of community activities. After the formation of Israel and the rise of capitalism, many of these values began to be replaced by more modern, individualistic tendencies. Today, most kibbutzim have become private enterprises, and farming has largely been abandoned. Despite this decline, there are still as many as 125,000 people—about 3% of the total population—currently living in kibbutz-style communes all over Israel.

2. Oneida Colony

Image result for Oneida Colony

New York’s Oneida Colony community was started in 1848 by John Humphrey Noyes, a practitioner of a sect of Christianity he called Perfectionism, which stated that Christ had already returned and it was the people who had to build paradise on Earth. The community started as a small group of about 80 people, but this number had doubled within a few years, and by 1880 there were as many as 350 people of all ages living at Oneida. The group had a small plot of land, but its primary base of operations was a 92,000 square foot mansion house, where all the members lived and worked communally.

Community Philosophy:

Oneida worked under a pseudo-socialist style wherein each member would work to the degree that they were able. Women were afforded more freedom than was common at the time, and all possessions were communal. Noyes instituted a strange program of character improvement where each member of the group was regularly brought before a committee and told their personal flaws, which they were expected to fix. As a rule, monogamy was forbidden within Oneida. Instead, the community engaged in a “complex marriage” system where each member was effectively “married” to everyone else. Strong attachments to a single person were discouraged, and members of the commune would regularly trade out sexual partners throughout the course of the week. This included young people, who were supposedly “initiated” into the program by an elder member of the opposite sex. These practices proved to be Oneida’s undoing, as Noyes was forced to flee the country in 1879 in order to escape charges of statutory rape. Without his more-than-questionable guidance, the community soon broke apart.

1. Brook Farm

Image result for Brook Farm George and Sophia Ripley

Massachusetts’s Brook Farm community only lasted for five years, and was a conclusive failure in nearly every way. But it remains one of the most notable experimental communities of the 1800s, if only because of the many famous people who were associated with it.  The town was started by George and Sophia Ripley in 1841. The couple subscribed to the transcendental philosophy espoused by poets and thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, and they based their community on these ideals. The basic idea was that by pooling their labor efforts, a society could eliminate the drudgery of work and have time engage in intellectual pursuits and leisure activities. The Ripleys raised money through a joint stock company that counted Nathaniel Hawthorne among its investors, and after buying several acres of farmland outside of Boston, put their experiment into action.

Community Philosophy:

In the beginning, Brook Farm worked around a policy of personal freedom and equality. Members were allowed to choose what kind of work they wanted to do, and special time was set aside for leisure and intellectual study. Women enjoyed much greater equality than was common at that time. Not only were they paid the same as the men, but they were considered autonomous from their husbands and were allowed to be shareholders in the community at large. The commune tried to self-sustain by farming, opening a school, and selling goods like clothing, but they were never able to fully get out of debt. These financial troubles, along with Ripley’s inability to get luminaries like Emerson or Thoreau (who visited many times) to become permanent members, eventually led to the adoption of a more rigid, socialistic philosophy. Against the wishes of many of the members, the community had soon adopted more rules and social guidelines. When a massive communal house caught fire and burned halfway through construction, Brook Farm fell into even more debt, and in 1846 it dissolved for good.


Utopian Follies

– WIF Idealistic Travel

Telling Us How to Think – WIF Mind Games

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20th Century

Philosophers

(And What They Believed)

There’s a joke about a degree in philosophy where the people majoring in it get asked, “would you like fries with that?” Getting a degree in philosophy is supposed to be such a waste of time and money because philosophy ostensibly does not provide a utilitarian skill set. This claim was compellingly countered by Atlantic magazine in 2015, which found they had an average mid-career income of $82,000. It indicates that while philosophers can seem like marginal people — if not frivolous — they can make their contributions felt even while we mock them.

This list will be focusing on philosophers from the previous century. Philosophers from two or three centuries seem to get all the attention, not to mention all the philosophers from about two millennia ago. Some of these names will be familiar.

10. Ludwig Wittgenstein

Born in Vienna, Austria in 1889 to a wealthy family of musicians, in his youth the strongest desire of Wittgenstein’s heart was to work in engineering; specifically as it related to the infant technology of motorized flight. Wittgenstein happened to get hung up on pure mathematics and went to Cambridge to be taught by Bertrand Russell himself. It would be during a 1908 retreat in Norway, in a cabin he built, that Wittgenstein would have the inspiration for the “Picture Theory of Meaning” that would make him famous after he fought in World War I and got a job as an elementary school teacher for six years in 1920 because he’d divested himself of his inheritance in 1919.

Wittgenstein laid out the Picture Theory of Meaning in his 1921 book Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, which in brief said that unless a statement could be translated from an abstraction into an “arrangement of objects” then it had no meaning. It was a literalism that could be expected of a philosophically-minded engineer and which he also applied to the classroom, having students perform such hands-on learning as constructing models and dissecting animals (and applying corporal punishment to a degree that compelled him to lie about it and quit his job).

Wittgenstein reinforced the point of applied philosophy with his other book of philosophy that’s held up as a classic, Philosophical Investigations from 1953. Wittgenstein claimed that ethics and logic are inextricably linked, and that actions were the only way that a person could follow their ethics was to act on them. In his own words, “It is not possible to obey a rule ‘privately’: otherwise thinking one was obeying a rule would be the same thing as obeying it.” It’s a harsh rebuke for people who claim to be above others by not participating in the world around them, or who convince themselves that what matters is who they are “on the inside.”

9. Hiratsuka Raicho

For this philosopher born in 1886, her feminist beliefs that would one day change the face of Japan were initially born more of religion than pure humanism. She had been taught that the Buddha claimed all people were equal, and naturally that meant all the women must be equal to men despite lacking key civil rights. It wasn’t until she read the work of Ellen Key that she began to think of women as deserving equal rights for purposes of autonomy and individualism. As she wrote in her autobiography, women had been “the sun” but society had reduced them to “ …a wan and sickly moon, dependent on another, reflecting another’s brilliance.”

The single most significant action Raicho undertook was founding and editing Seito, a literary magazine, that ran from 1911 to 1916. She continued campaigning after seeing the appalling conditions of textile factories, which tended to employ primarily female crews. In 1920 she founded the New Woman’s Association. They were able to almost pass women’s suffrage in 1921, and in 1922 successfully pressured the government to amend the Public Order and Police Law. Although her goal of suffrage wasn’t achieved until 1945, her efforts still got her elected president of the Women’s Federation in 1953. In 1908, she scandalously accompanied her (platonic) best friend to a mountain for a ritual suicide with an attitude of curiosity about what it was like to die, and because she suspected her partner would lose his willingness to kill himself when push came to shove. It was the sort of combination of deep conviction and apathy to social pressure that is often significant to bringing about change.

8. Noam Chomsky

There are two movies about long-term Massachusetts Institute of Technology linguist Noam Chomsky that, between them, encapsulate his two main areas of interest: Manufacturing Consent from 1992, an analysis of the profit-driven and narrative-driven media and US foreign policy, and Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?from 2013, a collection of interviews Michel Gondry wherein Chomsky’s answers or asks philosophical questions about how language shapes thoughts and memories practically since his birth in 1929, all of which are illustrated/animated in Gondry’s intentionally rough and child-like style.

Chomsky’s core beliefs relate to how controlling media (news coverage, commonly employed phrases and the words that back them, etc.) can be used to create public approval of what by basic human nature would not be acceptable. Back in 1968 in a televised debate with William Buckley (who threatened Gore Vidal on air), he argued how the US government arguing the military was occupying South Vietnam for the good of the Vietnamese was an excuse used since Ancient Roman conquests. Manufacturing Consent also devoted much of its run time to how the media would withhold coverage of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor because it served elite interests to ignore it. One of the core values of Chomsky’s political commentary and his stated views on language is to always question the narrative being provided. He goes so far as to say that in his childhood during the 1930s he went to a school that was well-suited for him before he went to high school because he was given freedom in classes to question instead of going through a highly regimented curriculum.

7. Jacques Derrida

Lately you hear the word “deconstruction” thrown around a lot in regards to media with some form of meta-commentary (e.g., a superhero movie where the filmmakers have the characters comment on the supposedly fascistic power fantasy nature of superhero narratives within the movie’s dialogue). We can attribute the popularity of that phrase to a man born in French-Algeria in 1930; a man who flunked his own exams to become a licensed Parisian philosopher in 1952. Badly flunked, too: A score of five out of twenty, and he choked disastrously on the written portion. He would need three attempts to pass in 1956, and after some time in the military he spent decades teaching. It was while working in education that he would write the essays that made him famous with the English-speaking world.

If Derrida’s philosophical insight that made him so influential were to be reduced to a logline (and bear in mind that this is someone who wrote 70 books and countless essays), it would be to critique other writers who claimed they were being objective. Derrida said that was functionally impossible, as the education any analyst had received would introduce biases that would impact their views one way or another. That claim is a rebuke to every school of thought, even Chomsky’s “question everything” philosophy. It argues there are limited a very limited number of questions a person will ask and narrow-minded ways they will be asked, the limitations being set by the person’s upbringing. Derrida’s seemingly detached central tenet didn’t mean he avoided controversial opinions, since he was an admirer of Karl Marx and Nazi Party member Martin Heidegger.

6. Judith Jarvis Thomson

Whatever your views on the abortion debate, there’s no denying Thomson’s influence over the issue in the United States of America. Born in 1929, by 1969 she was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. In 1971 she wrote “A Defense of Abortion” and went a long way to reframing the debate in a manner which put the feminist movement behind the landmark 1973 Roe V. Wade ruling. Its influence and controversy has led to her essay being dubbed “the most widely reprinted essay in all of contemporary philosophy.”

The most momentous passage of Thomson’s essay is a metaphor. Thomson asks the reader to imagine they woke up on life support (the reader’s kidneys being used to support the life of a violinist in a coma), and the reader is being used for this process because they’re the only matching blood type. While the violinist certainly has the right to life, Thomson asserts that the reader would also have a right to their own body and potentially their own life. In so doing she reframed the debate from focusing on the rights of the fetus to those of the parent. This is hardly her sole contribution to the philosophical landscape, such as her redesign of the famous Trolley Problem (i.e. the moral quandary about whether it’s inherently better to take action to kill one person and save five) but the 1971 essay remains her most momentous piece of writing.

5. Jean-Paul Sartre

Born in Paris in 1905, his body of work would, by the time of his death in 1980, includes books and plays such as Being and Nothingness and The Flies, which were key to spreading existential philosophy around the world. His most famous play, No Exit, coined the popular expression “hell is other people.” Sartre rejected the label of existentialist for a time, and in 1964 he rejected the Nobel Prize in literature, criticizing its Eurocentrism (he came to regret this latter rejection in particular, saying he could have donated the prize money to an anti-Apartheid committee in London). Also in 1964, he renounced all literature as a substitute for taking meaningful action in the world.

Sartre was a nihilist when it came to human nature, as he outlined in Existentialism is Humanism. He argued that human beings, as autonomous and sentient entities, have to define themselves as they live, and they do so through their actions (as Wittgenstein did). Sartre was not positive about this state being, calling it “anguish.” Little wonder he felt Hell is other people.

4. Giovanni Gentile

The inclusion of any figure on this list is not an endorsement of their views. we want to be made especially clear in this case, as in 1932 this Italian philosopher born in 1886 was literally a co-author for The Doctrine of Fascism with Benito Mussolini. Meaning, of course, that he indirectly helped write the blueprints for much more destructive German fascism. He created a philosophical movement of his own known initially as “actual idealism,” which was shortened to “actualism.” It was largely an extension of the work of nineteenth century philosopher Georg Hegel.

Gentile argued that objective reality was unknowable and that individual identities were an illusion, which in turn he argued meant that the only way to find value was to bind oneself into a larger group. In a sense it’s a form of nihilism since everything outside the group is unquantifiable and thus can’t have a value, giving people within the group tacit approval to subjugate any outsiders however they please.

3. Ayn Rand

Few people are as well known for their contradictions as this bestselling author born in Russia in 1905 who created the Objectivist movement. She is highly lauded in right wing circles despite being aggressively pro-choice. She believed only in wealth redistribution through private charity but is very often mocked for accepting social security near the time of her passing in 1982. Her books The Fountainhead, We the Living, Anthem, and Atlas Shrugged are all endlessly derided and bought. Despite how far out of fashion her writing style and subject matter have fallen she remains popular enough that blockbuster director Zack Snyder plans to make a film adaptation of The Fountainhead.

It is often asserted that the Soviet government’s seizure of her father’s pharmacywhile she was a child inspired her to design a philosophical framework of her own which is often referred to as Randianism but which she called Objectivism. Objectivism argues that the best way for humanity to proceed is for everyone to act in their rational self-interest. People will act ethically because it is in the best interest of capitalism for them to treat everyone ethically, so that others will treat them ethically. Morality cannot be forced on anyone, and to use the threat of physical violence to compel people to act morally (e.g. to use the threat of arrest to coerce citizens to give tax money that would be used to help the needy) is itself amoral.

2. Leo Strauss

Leo Strauss has not become a household name since his death in 1973. Even among the circle that knew him at the time he was more polarizing than most. Strauss is more influential because he was read by a few at the top than by many at the bottom or in the middle. From Gerald Ford to the Bushes, his work was taught and discussed in the White House itself every time there was a Republican in office. Even William Gaston, a domestic policy adviser to Bill Clinton for two years, was a student of him.

Strauss believed that human beings do not have natural rights, and are inherently unequal and thus shouldn’t be treated as if they are. He argued that society needed to have its “noble lies,” which was what Strauss considered religion, so that the lower classes would remain productive. He said science and philosophy must be the “preserve of a small minority” because science and philosophy are attempts to replace opinion, and opinion is “the element in which society breathes.”

1.  Albert Camus

Like Derrida he was born in Algeria, though in Camus’s case in 1913. He also shared with Derrida a soft spot for communism, though that was out of his system by the time he was in France and made his name. Derrida is said to be the father of deconstruction, Camus is credited with being one of the fathers of absurdism as a philosophical movement, even if he rejected “armchair philosophy” in favor of going out and living life to the fullest.

Camus’s first published book is 1942’s The Stranger, a novel about a sociopathic man who neither cares at his mother’s death nor understands why everyone else does. Accused of premeditated murder, what actually gets him sentenced to death is his apathy and atheism. Before his execution he tears into the priest sent to receive his confession, and manages to find peace in accepting the meaninglessness of life.

His most famous book, and his winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, is 1947’s The Plague. A story of a bubonic plague epidemic in Oran, Algeria (based on a cholera epidemic that hit the town in 1849 and metaphorical for the presence of the Third Reich in France) it’s the story of how society is broken down so that people isolate themselves in the hopes of riding the plague out and others fight against it. Even though Camus treats the struggle against the plague as absurd, it’s clear that the resisting characters have his sympathies.

Camus’s other work of nonfiction is The Myth of Sisyphus, a 130 page essay published in 1942 about the character from Greek mythology who is condemned to forever push a boulder up a mountain, a task impossible because in some versions it will always roll back down or just can’t be moved in the first place. Camus argued that this was a perfect symbol for the human condition: Forever pointlessly struggling since the inevitability of oblivion hangs over everyone and everything at all times. So why not commit suicide instead? Rather than reaching a dour, nihilistic conclusion from that, Camus said “one must imagine Sisyphus happy.” After all, he does have an eternal sense of purpose. In its way, Camus’s absurdist philosophy is a optimistic and accepting form of nihilism.


Telling Us How to Think –

WIF Mind Games

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #79

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #79

Chapter Five

HORIZONS

… Random occurrences have a way of effecting change, regardless of what day the calendar reads or the hands of the clock point to…

1900-001

Those who have predicted the end of the world were wrong. Numerous millenarians were convinced that the coming year of 1900 would signal the end of the world, as we know it and the beginning of the millennial kingdom, foretold in the Bible, as prophesied in Revelation. Extremist go so far as to sell or abandon (temporarily it seems) possessions, withdraw to mountain tops (to be closer to God), or dress completely in white (so Jesus would recognize them we he returns).

There as many interpretations of the Book of Revelation as there are organized religions, but there one sure thing; no adult hopeful of seeing Christ will be around for the next millennium opportunity at the year 2000.

Then again, what is all the fuss? 1900 is not the year that begins the Twentieth Century. For reasons few understand, 1 January 1901, will be the first day in the new century. It promises to be one of great change.

Boll Weevil-001Random occurrences have a way of effecting change, regardless of what day the calendar reads or the hands of the clock point to. Just ask Herbert Love, whose cotton fields, as well as most others in the South, is introduced to Mr. Boll Weevil. Mr. Weevil is a multi-legged visitor from Mexico and he and his many relatives have dined on the bolls of the cotton plant; uninvited and unrelenting in its devastation of the textile industry. Herbert is diversified enough to weather 1899, due to the installation of a pasteurizing machine for his creamery and the growing popularity of his quality line of cigars. Please thank Mr. Luck and Mr. Campbell for that.

The weekly route to Tallahassee has been a resounding success. Fridays are a blessing for route-master Willy, a day to see the sights and know people.

It is so for his son, Alfrey, as well. He is a young eleven, thanks to his stays with the German Young A.O.-001 and exposure to toddler Maggie Lou (Ferrell). The skillful knowledge of a physician, who has practiced medicine longer than an average life’s span, provides a disadvantaged child with the gift of nurturing and healing; the starter kit for any aspiring doctor.

Alfrey Campbell is a true enigma compared to rest of Southern society. Just as he is entering adolescence, usually the prime time for beginning serious field work, he has no such duties, most of his time readying the ice wagon for his treasured Friday adventures. Herbert Love has gone as far as to hire a tutor to fill Alfrey’s days with matters of the mind, rather than the formation of calluses. Hardly a better situation exists for the grooming and preparation of a young mind.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #79


page 72

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #46

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #46

…The Campbells is free! The Campbells is free!’ are the cries for joy…

Escape2

“Are you sure the cabin is empty?!” demands Pigface of his night watchman, whose tending of his duties has lapsed this evening into morning. “They’re on the lamb with three brats and a useless old woman. They can’t be far! Get the dogs, you damn fool, whilst the trail is still warm!” 

The baying of a trio of converted coonhounds brings sleep to a raucous halt for the rest of these renaissance cavemen of the 19th century. The lamps in the overseers’ quarters, as well as the mansion are lit room by room. Looking out the window of his bedroom, Jefferson Smythwick sees a line of torches heading northwest across his recently harvested fields. When word of the Campbell flight reaches him, he orders every available man to the search.

The news spreads like wildfire from farm to farm on the plantation. ‘The Campbells is free! The Campbells is free!’ are the cries for joy, resounding and inciting. Those workers who remain take up the torch as well; not to aid in the capture of the Campbells, rather to band together in revolt. Within the hour of 2 A.M., the light generated by scores of burning buildings illuminates the Midway landscape better than the coming clouded sunrise could hope to.

Dynamite-001

There are sporadic rifle shots amidst the chaos, but they are drowned out by the explosions coming from the dynamite shed. The explosive used in stump removal craters straight down to the bedrock.

It feels like a Florida quake after all, epicenter, just outside of Midway. Fort Sumter South shakes to the depth of its old Southern ways, the sound of freedom echoes far and wide. From the slave traders on the Gold Coast in West Africa to the slave markets in Atlanta, Georgia.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Slave Trade

Episode #46


page 43