“Do You See What I See?”

I am certain that many you have heard and/or read about President Biden and the “document” scandal that is rocking the nation. And as they say, the proverbial you-know-what has hit the fan in Washington. Wait, does this sound familiar? And it would appear by all accounts that Republicans across the land are basking, for a change, on the other side of the spotlight. Why shouldn’t they? Everyone knows that collectively they have been the “butt of the joke” for quite some time, with very little prospect of that changing anytime soon. They have even taken it from their “side” of the aisle, so why shouldn’t they have their 15 minutes of fame? Or, in this case, 15 minutes of “nah-nah-nah-nah-nahhh. I am rubber. You are glue. Bounces off me. And sticks to you!”  All of this at the expense of someone else, of course, because that’s the way it goes in politics and, unfortunately, in other facets of our society.

Am I happy about these turn of events and what’s happening? HELL NO! But that is really besides the point. Why? Because as is almost always the case in events such as these, the “reality” of the situation, any political situation really, will almost always give way to the “perception” of the situation. Taken another way and twisting the words of Spanish philosopher George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember history are condemned to repeat it,” we get: Those who cannot remember what “reality” is, are condemned to trusting thier “perceptions” of that reality. We only need to look back at what has transpired over the last couple of years in this country to understand this. Perhaps Henry David Thoreau said it best: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

All of this got me thinking about a book from my past, Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception/Heaven and Hell (1954/56). Now, I will grant you that the first of these “longish” essays, “The Doors of Perception,” was written under a mescaline fog, and you can give yourself a pass if you feel like our entire government appears at time to be under that same fog! However, for some reason the book still resonates for me, even though I read it in the early 70s, which probably says more about me than the book, but I digress! It is by no means a perfect book, but when Huxley delves into relating his psychedelic experiences to the mystical, religious, and artistic, it begins to get intriguing. While “The Doors Of Perception” is really a mix of description and discussion of these links, “Heaven and Hell” delves much deeper into those “linkages.”

My absolute favorite quote from that book goes like this: “But the man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less cocksure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance, yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable Mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.”

When I read this again just the other day, about 50 years removed from the first time I read it, I was astounded, to say the least. And while that astonishment was partly to do with the words themselves, I was equally astonished at the fact that if you simply reversed the three “changes” in that quote, you would be talking about you-know-who (Y.K.W)! So, while it is very unlikely that Y.K.W. would ever go through the door, if he did, and unfortunately came back, instead of “wiser and less cocksure,” Y.K.W. would be more cocksure and stupider, instead of “happier but less self-satisfied,” Y.K.W. would be more miserable and infinitely self-satisfied; and finally, in a slightly more succinct form, instead of “humbler in acknowledging his ignorance, yet better equipped to comprehend,” Y.K.W. basks in his ignorance, and doesn’t understand shit!

The above also brought to mind an aphorism; a little snippet of historical humor that has been around for quite some time. It goes like this: “Politicians and diapers need to be changed often, and for the same reason.” Attributed to Mark Twain, as are most of these types of gems, it’s witty, funny, poignant, and tinged with truth; more truth than we might want to acknowledge. So, let’s just say for the moment that Twain was right, and politicians should be changed…very often. The big question that this begs is: Would it make any difference? Well, that would most likely depend upon what your “perception” is. But this is my “perception,” so take it for what it’s worth. Yeah, I know, not a whole lot!

Los Angeles 2023

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