The Day the Music Died – Part Deux?
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re now approaching our destination. The captain has turned on the ‘seatbelt’ sign so please buckle up, return your seats to their upright positions, and return tray-tables to their original configuration. We’re expecting some turbulence as we descend so, please remain in your seats.”
When I was in my late teens, working on my private pilot’s license, my flight instructor once told me that ninety-five percent of aviation accidents happen during take-off or landing.
I look around and recognize that as a culture, we’re closing on the full circle of a philosophical flight. Social mindsets that once held revolutionary promise are coming to fruition and proving to be more fraught with problems than brimming with answers. People on both sides of the political, religious, and philosophical aisles, are starting to realize something is amiss. I just hope our landing goes without incident.
Back in that long ago century, I played hooky one Friday of my Senior year in high school, and I drove down to Austin to visit a girl I’d been dating. Arriving shortly before noon, I went to her dorm and called up to her room in hopes that we could get an early start on our weekend (this was in the pre-cell phone 70’s). She informed me that she had one more class to attend that day but that it was a large class, and I could blend right in if I wanted to go with her.
The class was an Introduction to Psychology, and it turned out to be a large class indeed. There were probably close to 100 students spread about a huge lecture hall, being addressed by a man I can only equate to Fred McMurray in The Absent-Minded Professor. He was perfectly adorned with tweed jacket (including elbow patches) and black horn-rimmed glasses.
But all similarities to McMurray ended when he began to speak. It was obvious that this fellow was the model of smug, self-satisfaction. The first pompous phrase out of his lips was, “There is no such thing as ‘normal’ and even if there were, who would want to be that?” What followed was raucous cheering and wild applause. He had obviously made his point and stroked his inner libido.
Had I not been striving for anonymity, I’d have simply raised my hand and uttered the phrase, “98.6”. Had I been more educated, I might have pointed out the inverse-square law of gravity which never faulters even the slightest, assuring that the chairs beneath out buttocks remain firmly in place and that the bookcase across the room doesn’t suddenly take flight and snap our neck as it soars past.
What wasn’t obvious to this incredibly naïve 17-year-old at the time, was that the preening bobbin behind the lectern was spouting ten-year-old philosophy rather than some supernatural vision he’d encountered in the night. It was back in the early 60’s that the generation of counterculture, free-loving rebels without a cause, found their cause in rejecting absolutely everything that had come before.
Unquestionably, post-World War 2 American culture had plenty worth rejecting but simply rejecting the distorted values of the previous generation was never the aim of the 60’s counterculture. The goal was total annihilation of everything espoused by the over-35 population, up to and including their very concept of truth.
Scorched-Earth policies, whether in war, politics, philosophy, or religion, may sound antiseptic and effective in the beginning but they leave nothing, save the ego of the victors, from which to begin the rebuilding process. The tumult of the 60’s certainly indicated a rough beginning – not unlike trying to launch one’s flight in a single-engine aircraft during a blinding 18-degree snowstorm at 1:00 AM on a moonless morning — but the 60’s philosophical journey defied the odds and got off the ground. Maybe it was the drugs.
Now, after sixty years of evolution, the “Me First” movement of the 1960’s which promised us each absolute autonomy over our own existence, has proven to be untenable. “I Did It My Way” may have been a great anthem for the proud and the delusional but nobody with an ounce of integrity can claim to have succeeded without a little (make that a “lot” of) help from their friends.
Moreover, when every individual sees themselves as the god of their own universe, what is the standard used to solve the dilemma when two or more of those universes come into conflict? And no matter how progressive and compassionate one sees oneself, putting teenage biological males (regardless of how feminine they might “feel”) in a dressing room with naked teenage biological females, always ends up poking more than a few holes in one’s ideology.
Since the dawn of life, young bulls have tested the virility and tenacity of old bulls by messing with the females of their families. More often than not, those encounters ended badly for the young bull. And there are still a lot of old bulls out there today, willing to visit death on anyone who might hurt their daughters or granddaughters.
So perhaps the laws of nature and reality are finally bringing our half-century flight of fantasy back down to Earth where the rational thinking of Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato may once again prevail. Who knows? Some semblances of order might be restored. But don’t forget, we’ve still got one heck of a risky landing ahead of us. Let’s hope we don’t all end up strewn across an Iowa corn field in the name of “normal”.
Nothing spoils a good story like the arrival of an eyewitness.
— Mark Twain
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— John D. Kelleher
The MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series is turning out to be a great source of interesting information without the injection of any political hype. I highly recommend “Deep Learning” along with the other books available through that resource. Unfortunately, if you’re an Audible addict like me, only a few of these great books are available as e-books. The others are only available in an archaic medium known as print.
How the West Won
— Rodney Stark
I re-read this so I’m re-recommending it. Achor is probably the preeminent voice of positive psychology today and he has a serious handle on what it takes to change our thinking and our lives. He’s also a great story teller that communicates technical information in an entertaining manner.
A meeting of great minds who think alike