Thursday, December 6, 2012


THE PARABLE of the 
SINKING SHIP

Why Mankind is a Fallen Species


Shipwreck - Christiaan Kannemans (1812-1884)


An ocean liner is sinking. There aren’t enough lifeboats to save all the passengers and crew. What should be done?

Communists declare it unjust that not every passenger can be saved from drowning, ergo, all passengers in life boats should be dragged out of the boats by those floundering in the water and be forced to drown along with everyone else. In a society that fully embraces Social Justice all must die.

Socialists declare that all Jews, then black and latino women and children should be saved first. Then the mentally retarded and the cripples, then the poorest, and most unattractive white women and children, and then women and children from the middle class –– if there’s any room for them. Rich women and their spoiled, over-privileged children should be excluded completely, even if there’s room for one or two. Men of any and all strata must be consigned to Davey Jones as a matter of principle with the single exception of bearded Marxist professors and Community Organizers. 

Christian Conservatives declare all woman and children who have been Born Again should take to the lifeboats followed by those who have openly expressed willingness to turn their lives over to Christ, if they survive the ordeal. Clergymen should be permitted to survive, if there’s room. The rest can go to hell where they properly belong.

Libertarians might say, “Every man for himself. Only the strongest, the fittest, the smartest and the most ruthless deserve to survive anyway. If there’s a woman who can bash my head in with an oar while I’m trying to throw her out of a lifeboat, she deserves to survive, and I don’t. Glug! Glug! Glug! Children? Well, we can always make more babies when we get back to shore, can’t we?”

Paleo-Conservatives might say, “The brightest and best looking white Christian men, women and children should be given their pick of the lifeboats first. –– Families should not be separated. Then the strongest, most capable and willing blacks and Hispanics should come next, because –– after all –– we’re going to need a few servants if we ever get back home again, aren’t we? Save as many farmers and factory workers as you can, because someone’s got to raise the crops and run the mills. The wretchedly poor, the chronically ill and the feeble would be better off dead anyway, wouldn’t they? So let ‘em drown. College professors, news reporters, and union organizers should be pitched off the boat at the first sign of trouble –– after first being knocked on the head with a sledge hammer.”

All of which indicates that Jeremiah was probably right when he said, The [human] heart is ... desperately wicked ...”

~ FreeThinke

32 comments:

Always On Watch said...

Human beings are good at one thing: demonizing "the other."

Silverfiddle said...

“The [human] heart is ... desperately wicked ...”

Yes it is...

FreeThinke said...

The piece was intended as satire, of course, but like most humor doubtless contains many pointedly unflattering things about the human condition most of us would prefer not to recognize -- in ourselves.

The point?

No matter what failings and undesirable characteristics we see in others it's most likely we have something equally questionable, objectionable or obnoxious in ourselves.

No one has ALL the answers.

In fact most of us don't begin to understand what questions we need to ask.

That's why -- in my never humble estimation -- we desperately need to recognize a Higher Power -- something greater than our individual selves, if we hope to survive and prosper.

Right now, human progress appears to be at an impasse. Our pride and conceit stops us from breaking the "mind-forged-manacles" that doom us to repeat the same errors over and over again always in hope of getting better results.

Some call that insanity. I prefer to think of it as mental and spiritual stagnation.

~ FreeThinke

jez said...

Recognition a higher power often in practice reduces to promoting our human opinions or tastes to the status of Universal Law, without going to the trouble of gathering evidence or demonstrating proof, as physicists and mathematicians are required to do, but priests are not.

I agree wholeheartedly with much of your premise, but my solution is almost the opposite of yours: I think we should recognise the Doctrine of Fallibility. How much better would our society be if we could all keep sincerely in mind the real possibility that we might be wrong about everything? (unless we can provide evidence or proof.)

Ducky's here said...


Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.
A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passes the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

Thersites said...

May I simply say, go see the Life of Pi. Redemption for all may lie in the tale's retelling.

Thersites said...

Of course, this retelling isn't one of them...

FreeThinke said...

The Very Rich Man

He’d have the best, and that was none too good;
No barrier could hold, before his terms.
He lies below, correct in cypress wood,
And entertains the most exclusive worms.


~ Dorothy Parker - from Tombstones in the Starlight

Finntann said...

Shouldn't the born-again drown themselves knowing they are saved? In the hope that by their sacrifice those who are not may find Christ?

Seems the Christian thing to do.

FreeThinke said...

I wish I'd thought of that first, Finntann. You do have logic on your side. Unfortunately, mankind is not a species that runs on logic.

When it comes right down to it, most of us will act contrary to our professed ideals -- hence the long held claim we are inherently wicked.

Anyway, no matter what we do from any particular point of view, someone else is always going to get the shaft.

Life is absolutely absurd -- something that just should no be by any laws of logic -- but it's all we have, so we might as well accept it realistically and stop looking for a Universal Panacea.

There ain't none.

Them things don't exist, 'cause, as I'm sure you done heared, "One man's meat is another man's poison."

Cheerio!

FT

Always On Watch said...

Duck,
T.S. Eliot, huh?

A poet for our time, but depressing stuff.

FreeThinke said...

Oh the T.S. Eliot is just Shelley's Ozymandias revisited. So in its way is the little piece by Dorothy Parker. So too is Kipling's Recessional.

By the way, T.S. Eliot -- like Thomas Hardy -- became much more cheerful and optimistic in his maturity. Doesn't that seem surprising?

Contemplating Doom and Gloom with relish and gusto seems to be more a province of the young -- and of leftists -- than more advanced, fully ripened souls.

There's much less rage, rebellion and sorrow in the last sonatas of Beethoven than in many of his earlier works, although all five of his piano concerti are filled with joy, boundless energy and optimism as well as sublime serenity in the slow movements.

The later works, however, take on a mystical, otherworldly atmosphere that transcends ordinary experience and gives clear evidence of Divinity to those with ears able to receive it. In those last sonatas all sense of conflict, grief and resentment seems to resolve itself in an ecstatic prayerful state that goes far beyond the kind of "fun" and even the "joy" we may experience here on earth. Our mind and spirit unite, and for a short time we are elevated Above and Beyond the realm of earthly care and woe.

The notes, themselves, don't do it. The musicians must play with special sensitivity and understanding in order to project Beethoven's astonishing intent.

Joe Conservative said...

ts eliot was no "leftist."

-FJ said...

...and the "Wasteland" was a critique of modern man, the "secular" man who had lost all his "faith".

jez said...

FreeThinke, believe it or not, something similar happens occassionally to aging rock 'n' rollers who stick at it long enough to grow beyond adolescence. It is a great comfort it is to witness; maturity has many forms.

There is a commonly-held misconception that happiness is not a worthwhile aim. T.E. Lawrence tells us that it is a by-product of absorption, and I can see his point. It unfortunately follows that stopping to notice your own happiness entails an interruption in the absorption that caused it. Certainly in my experience, happiness doesn't bare scrutiny: it is quickly exposed as apallingly self-centered, a discovery that leads directly to melancholy.

Any reasonable sense of proportion teaches us that personal happiness is illegitimate. Our comforts need not rest on others' deprivation, but still it certainly insults those who are deprived. That same sense of proportion ought to dispose of misery just as easily, but it doesn't.

The wise man resists melancholy, that collosal bore, although it is one of the necessary discoveries all children must make as they approach adulthood. There's no point begrudging or denying the poetry arising from it, but let us instead seek a salubrious balance between good cheer and realism, succumbing to neither inanity nor heartbrake.

The children get scared when we don't smile, and for myself, every expression of joy from an older generation is a great comfort.

Late-period Beethoven passeth all understanding.

Thersites said...

Meden agan!

Hén oīda, hóti oudén oīda

Thersites said...

There's hope for you yet, jez.

Thersites said...

Now, to whom shall I dedicate le part maudite? Should I cultivate my own garden, or first enslave the world to serve as my gardener? Hmmmmm....

FreeThinke said...

Wel, Jez, I'm not sure about aging -- or aged -- rock 'n rollers. What I see of Mick Jagger, as he is today and has been for quite a few years now, is pretty frightening. Of course, Jagger -- and that entire Sick-sties Thing -- always did scare the tar out of me.

Ducky insists he loved the Sick-sties. I'm sure he did. It shows in 90% of everything he posts, as does his tough, urban uncouth South Boston background. However, Ducky has a mind and occasionally gives evidence of great empathy for humanity -- something he and I share, though he doesn't seem able to believe it of me.

i really was "there" when the Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n Roll, Hippie Drop Out, Tune In Counter-Culture began, and I watched it with ever-increasing dismay and dejection sweep over the nation -- and seemingly the entire civilized world.

To me it was all hideous, ill-conceived and sure to bring deadly consequences, which from my perspective it certainly has.

At the very least it succeeded in robbing me of my youth and turning me into an anachronism -- an irrelevancy -- a quaint relic of a bygone era -- before I reached the end of my twenties.

That was more than forty years ago, and though I've adjusted well enough to enjoy life in my own peculiar fashion, I've never gotten over being brutally buffeted by a Tidal Wave of unwanted, unneeded, undesirable change before I had a chance to establish an adult career.

FreeThinke said...

As for happiness I have to disagree with your assertions -- both of you.

Happiness is, indeed, possible -- and certainly desirable -- but to see it as coming from the deprivation or exploitation of others is downright perverse.

I've quoted this often, and to me it reveals a deep and most encouraging understanding of the true meaning of the term:

"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you're thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."

~ G. B. Shaw (1856-1950)

If there is a "secret" to living a joyful and fulfilled life, surely it must be contained in that remarkable observation. Notice he said, "a purpose recognized by YOURSELF as a mighty one."

That means you don't need anyone else's instructions of permission only a genuine sense of purpose. How greatly liberating!

A remarkable contentment has come over me in latter years. It's derived from making the effort to do whatever I do as well as I can while using a significant portion of my fairly abundant resources to help others in truly meaningful ways.

This involves a certain amount of sacrifice, of course, but I've lived that way all my adult life -- long before I could properly "afford" to -- and never once has it harmed in any way. I hope this doesn't sound self-righteous?

Unfortunately, there's no one else available to describe it at the moment, so I take the risk of possibly being regarded as a prig. ;-)

At any rate, whether these sentiments sit well with you or not, you may be sure of my sincerity.

~ FreeThinke





Thersites said...

a gift of one's accursed share... we have no argument.

Thersites said...

...for we make the same use of ours.


wisdom. The gift that keeps on giving.

A pity that like all virtues, it cannot be taught. ;)

Thersites said...

...and yet, here we are.

FreeThinke said...

A wise, well-informed, well-motivated mentor can do wonders for a budding intellect.

I've been very fortunate to have had two such influences in my life.

My achievements have been unremarkable, perhaps, -- no Nobel Prizes, no gold medals in the International Tchaikovsky Competition --, but they have given me great personal satisfaction nonetheless.

Understanding is the greatest gift one could ever hope to possess. The pearl of great price, if you will.

The pursuit of Fame, Great Wealth, and the Power to Dominate Others are all bitch goddesses -- addictive and ultimately unsatisfying every one of them.

jez said...

Jagger is certainly NOT someone I'd had in mind. Paul Simon might work as a mainstream example, but I had more obscure outfits such as Quasi in mind. Wilco have taken a pleasing emotional arc.

I was expecting more agreement about happiness, and I think we do really (you appear to have mistaken my point about deprivation), or at least Lawrence & Shawe substantially agree.

Thersites said...

Happiness has a source, the succesful application of all of one's powers. Whether one uses it for one's own personal advancement, or the advancement of others, is purely coincidental and a matter of aesthetic preferences. Suffice to say though, if one directs those powers towards achieving immortality, as most do, it won't be applied for one's own, personal advancement unless it is a necessary step in the achievement of that greater goal.

And melancholy, that's simply, "mourning in advance", foreknowledge of the failure to utilize one's powers in the advancement of desired goals. Most likely, it is the result of misjudging the limits of one's own powers. But that realization will ultimately lead to real mourning... and a restatement of goals in a more "realistic" manner.

In other words, its a process, not an end.

Thersites said...

ps Lawrence and Shaw had nothing on Freud and Lacan.

Thersites said...

Herbert Marcuse once quoted Freud in stating that, "happiness is no cultural value"...

...but the satisfaction of sublimated instincts applied towards the attainment of cultural values can be rather "gratifying", regardless. ;)

Thersites said...

...for it is culture which gives power to mind.

FreeThinke said...

Sigmund Freud
Stared into the veud
Got Anneud
And then empleud
His IQ to show us life is deveud
Of purpose and can't be enjeud.

Frankly, I never could bring myself to lyke
This far too clever, aggravating little kyke.

Thersites said...

Like him or NOT, the man was brilliant. Truth doesn't care whether or not is gets "liked".

Thersites said...

Now get back up there on the lion's back, FT. ;)