2013: Welcome to the Pleasure Dome


Long time readers of this blog (which I proudly remind everyone is likely one of the oldest extant blogs on the entire Internet) might note that the first post of every year I traditionally reserve for some personal time, wherein I reflect on the things for which I am thankful.

Last year’s post was interestingly apocalyptic. I had even titled that post, “Welcome to the End.” After all, 2012 was supposed to be the last year in the history of the universe, right? Damn Mayans. In deference to Coleridge, Kublai Khan, Trevor Horn, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, I name this one, “Welcome to the Pleasure Dome.”

I’m glad no one took the 2012 apocalypse thing seriously….

But… get this…

In my endless weirdness, I must confess that one of my consuming existentialist fears is that –and bear with me now– I might actually be the only sentient thing in the universe. I know that sounds arrogant, but it springs from some well considered quantum philosophy. The old Hindu dictum of ta tvam asi (Sanskrit for “thou art that”) implies that all points in Creation are connected; more to the point, all objects, phenomena, minds, etc are truly manifestations of the one cosmic presence, which you can choose to call “God” or not. And when a certain founding physicist of the quantum tradition was once asked, “How many minds are there in the universe?” he cryptically held up a single finger (and not the one you dirty folks are thinking about).

All of that is to say that my supposition that perhaps I am the only sentience in the universe is not based so much on arrogance, but on somewhat well considered philosophical traditions. It doesn’t mean that you, dear reader, does not exist; rather, it means that you and I are simply a bifurcated expression of the same consciousness, as is this computer and the chair I’m sitting upon.

So what does any of this have to do with 2012 being the end of the world? Well, I reasoned, if I indeed am the only thing in the universe, then all reality is created by me and my imagination. That means that the arbitrary end date of Dec 21, 2012, was also manufactured by my imagination. And that meant that it might not be the end of THE world, but of MY world. And since MY world is in fact THE world, then, ipso facto, it really would be the apocalypse.

So I engaged in a morose thought experiment. If that date heralded, not a catastrophic rain of fire from the heavens, but a personal tragedy, then it would be evidence that in fact MY world is indeed THE world, as what is world-shakingly apocalyptic in my life would necessarily be reflected in an arbitrary Mayan prophecy that, of course, I as the true sole universal intellect had dreamed up. And what sort of personal tragedy would fit the bill? Well, the demise of a loved one, of course, or something similar.

I am pleased to report that I suffered no such personal tragedy on Dec 21, 2012, thus providing a sliver of evidence that the universe does not exist for my benefit and that I am unlikely to be the sole sentience in all of creation.

Whew. Big load off my back!

Many others, of course, did suffer personal tragedies; and my little intellectual vanities are in no way meant to be disrespectful towards them. I won’t list all of the public tragedies that happened in 2012; we all know what they were. I will only make note of the one passing of a famous person that I feel truly has historical impact. That would be Neil Armstrong. Didn’t see that one coming. As Armstrong was only two years older than my beloved father –and as they are both my heroes– it is pause for thought.

I’m always reticent to publicly get into the specific details of my personal life. Let’s just say that in the latter part of the year that just ended, I experienced something of a career crisis. But what I gathered from that experience was insight into relationships. In my experience, ultimately life is about self-knowledge and the quality of our relationships with others. At the end of our lives, we won’t be thinking back on our vacations, our days at work or the clothes we wore. We’ll be thinking about what we learned, who was there with us, and what it all might mean. So I am pleased to say that while I experienced something akin to distress, it was irrelevant because of the grand positive brought forth by the realization of the power of the relationships I had made.

All of this is rather cryptic, I know. But who cares. You probably stopped reading paragraphs ago.

Suffice it to say that I am thankful for: my infuriating but otherwise perfect and reliable family; some of the most interesting friends a fellow can acquire; a particular young lady who gave me surprising comfort when I did not even know I needed it; and the grand privilege of getting paid daily (and well) to engage in a calling in which I thrive, that of being something of an educator to students whom I truly adore.

And now, what of predictions for 2013? Geopolitically, I think big things are afoot… and none of them good.

Welcome to the pleasure dome!