Irony, Paradox and Serendipity or why a Donkey knew best!

Once upon a time, back when animals could talk and people did not rule the world, there was a donkey named Isaiah.  Isaiah was the wisest animal in the land.  He knew everything about life and death.  All of the animals, even the owls came to Isaiah when they had a question they could not answer or when they had a key decision to make.  The most intelligent people in the world would also come to Isaiah when they had a problem they could not figure out.   Isaiah was not only  intelligent but he was kind as well.  Now that might seem like a paradox to some.  Can we be intelligent and also kind?  Were not managers at Enron the “smartest men in the room?”  Maybe, but Enron’s senior management would hardly seem to qualify as kind when you consider the damage they did to the lives of their employees.   In truth, it often seems that the greatest paradoxes of all time, involve the harm done by “highly intelligent people.”  The world is full of examples of smart people who do great harm because they care little for the feelings or welfare of others. Fortunately for the world, Isaiah was not this kind of creature.  He was the epitome of wisdom because he combined intelligence with feelings and empathy for others.

No matter what the problem, Isaiah would always consider the potential damage and impact on others of his decisions and choices.  Whenever he reasoned out a problem, the morals and ethics of the problem were just as important to Isaiah as the solutions.  A solution which caused damage to anyone was not seen as a good solution.   Many of the people and animals were skeptical that Isaiah could always find a win-win solution but somehow Isaiah always did.  Most people find that the key decisions they make result in ironic outcomes that they would not have been able to predict.  This was not the case with Isaiah’s solutions.  His outcomes were never ironic.  Isaiah seemed to have the ability (like Merlin) to foresee the future.  Within the unlimited possibilities of various time-lines that the future laid out, Isaiah could always find the optimal path.

Once when one of the animals asked Isaiah how he managed to construct such robust solutions, he attributed his ability to serendipity.  According to Isaiah, his ideas were often happy accidents which surprised him with their elegance and simplicity.  But how could serendipity be the answer when his batting average was 100 percent.  Thus, another paradox, how could serendipitous decision-making result in outcomes that are always beneficial?   Luck may favor the prepared mind but even luck has its limits.  Isaiah’s abilities seemed to be more of the miraculous nature than of a serendipitous nature.  If so, this is truly ironic, since Isaiah did not believe in ghosts, gods, angels or miracles.

However, as with all good things, they must eventually come to an end.  Isaiah grew old in years and tired in body if not sometimes in spirit.  He had less energy for solving the problems of the world and gradually the animals and humans stopped coming to him for solutions.  The various species retreated further and further from each other.  Humans started building houses and walls and fences to keep themselves in and animals out.  Ironically, the further they went from each other, the more they mistrusted each other. Fear led to mistrust, mistrust led to suspicion.  The once harmonious relationship that existed between animals and humans dissolved in a mist of animosity and betrayal.

Friends started killing and eating friends and inexorably neither side could trust the other side.  Excuses for killing others became the norm and a human declared a theory called “Survival of the Fittest.”  Within this theory, might became right, power made the rules and the “fittest” could dominate those deemed as less fit.  Whole species were seen as suitable for consumption or slavery by other species.  Everyone was a commodity.  Anyone with no commercial value went to the bottom of the economic pie.  Human Resources became the norm in business and English Majors, History Majors, Art Majors and Philosophy Majors were paid less than high school dropouts.  Those who were loyal to the economic engines of society were given status and high paying jobs.

Sadly, Isaiah saw all this, but could find no solutions to the problems or trends.  Eventually, though he lived for many hundreds of years, people just regarded him as that “dumb old donkey” who did not say much.  As time passed, most people and animals even forgot that Isaiah had a brain or could speak.  Isaiah did not feel the need to disabuse anyone of their conceptions and so he just kept to himself.  At the age of 5887 years Isaiah died.  His body was sent to a glue factory to be processed.  He left no legacy of writings, nor any erudite body of knowledge, nor any great poetry nor any glorious music to be remembered by.  Just another old donkey that croaked, so who cares!

Some, if they had known Isaiah might have chided him for not posting his ideas and thoughts on Facebook or YouTube.  At least that way, he might have achieved some measure of fame if not fortune.  Ironically, or paradoxically, or serendipitously, (choose one), it never occurred to Isaiah to become Internet or Google savvy or famous or rich.  History may someday rediscover his genius and perhaps he will yet be remembered in homage to his major contributions to world peace for thousands of years.  Stranger things than that have happened of late on the Internet.

By the way, it is generally believed or was at least “once upon a time” that Isaiah (and not Euripides or Aeschylus or Sophocles) was the Father of Irony, Paradox and Serendipity and that these concepts were widely used by him in his conversations and discussions with other humans and animals. Thus, while the words today bear an etymology that derives from Greek vocabulary, their usage in practice and ideology must be attributed to Isaiah the Donkey.

Time for Questions:

Can you give me an example of irony or serendipity or paradox in your life?  What do ideas matter anyway or do they?  What if everyone was a philosophy major?  What would happen if more people practiced kindness instead of hate?  What value do animals have?  Are they just commodities?  What if we were all vegetarians?  Would it make any difference to the world?

Life is just beginning. 

19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Greg Gorman
    Jun 29, 2013 @ 16:22:55

    Hi John,
    I have just a few questions on your blog. Where did you get the idea for Isaiah the donkey? The fact that Isaiah died at 5887 years old, which is a close approximation to the current year in the Jewish calendar, can it be a metaphor to the Isaiah of the Old Testament or was its selection simply serendipitous?

    1. Can you give me an example of irony or serendipity or paradox in your life?
    They say that martial relationships should have commonality of spirit. However, as I write, my wife is speaking with our insurance provider and saving us $3000 while I try to remember ironic instances in my life. We are stronger as a couple because of this paradoxical behavior.
    2. What do ideas matter anyway or do they?
    Obviously ideas matter since most activity is preceded by an idea. What may be of interest is whether ideas matter that do not generate an activity. I would believe that even non-activity ideas are of immense importance. Those ideas that take the form of a mantra or prayers are important to the human spirit because of their restorative powers. The idea is get more by doing less. Yet another paradox.
    3. What if everyone was a philosophy major?
    If this were the case, I’m certain that the level of conversation would increase dramatically. Interestingly, there was this man who graduated from Princeton with a degree in philosophy who became quite wealthy by creating “junk bonds” back in the 80’s I believe. His entrance into the world of stocks & bonds was serendipitous and his metamorphic change from ethereal world of philosophy to the jungle of the Market was certainly paradoxical.
    One change could be that everyone would have investigated different philosophies and might try to have their behaviors to be consistent with the philosophy that they chose for themselves.
    4. What would happen if more people practiced kindness instead of hate?
    On initial investigation it would seem obvious that we would live in “kinder world”. But for some reason, I’m remembering the epilogue to Magistar Ludi by Herman Hesse. In his story he tells of sultan who was very cruel to his people and his neighbors. His policies made his kingdom very wealthy. His son was horrified by his father’s cruelty and made a promise to be a kinder sultan to his people. When the citizens and neighbors saw this change it was perceived as a sign of weakness, and so, his kindness was seen as an opportunity to over throw the sultan by the citizens and a time to declare by its neighbors. So his kindness allowed hate to triumph. This is a bit ironic.
    5. What value do animals have?
    Clearly animals have been partners to humans in a way which has profited both. Outside their nutritional value, they have partnered with man in hunting and farming. When one adds the value of their flesh and other by-products, they become virtually essential to our health.
    6. Are they just commodities?
    Animals have their role to play in the biosphere. They have their own will to live and have behaviors that will allow them to successfully continue into the future. In addition, many animals have a sentimental value. Most notably, cats and dogs are given family status in some households.
    7. What if we were all vegetarians?
    If all humans were vegetarians our farm animals would then enter their own biosphere, with new hazards, new freedoms, and new behaviors to incorporate. Certainly, the number of cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys, etc. would be drastically reduced.
    However, it is impossible for all the animals of the world to be vegetarian. I assume that you don’t see humans as animals that behave as their nature would dictate.
    8. Would it make any difference to the world?
    Has anyone ever pointed out that it’s rude to ask a question that you already know the answer to? This isn’t a test after all.

    Reply

  2. johnpersico
    Jun 29, 2013 @ 16:36:10

    Hi Greg, great reply. Funny, I was not intending to be rude. Perhaps it is my nihilism showing through. Sometimes I think it is like Max Stirner said in the
    Ego and its Own, that it is all “wheels in the head.” Thus, I really don’t know the answer to the question. I suspect even Heraclitus had his critics who did not agree that all was change. Remember Protagoras? Now that is a test question. What was his most famous thought? Do you agree with Protagoras? IF so, that might be the answer to the question. If not, well then you might be where I often find myself. Between a rock and a hard place.

    Reply

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    Jul 17, 2013 @ 06:16:45

    Hello Web Admin, I noticed that your On-Page SEO is is missing a few factors, for one you do not use all three H tags in your post, also I notice that you are not using bold or italics properly in your SEO optimization. On-Page SEO means more now than ever since the new Google update: Panda. No longer are backlinks and simply pinging or sending out a RSS feed the key to getting Google PageRank or Alexa Rankings, You now NEED On-Page SEO. So what is good On-Page SEO?First your keyword must appear in the title.Then it must appear in the URL.You have to optimize your keyword and make sure that it has a nice keyword density of 3-5% in your article with relevant LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing). Then you should spread all H1,H2,H3 tags in your article.Your Keyword should appear in your first paragraph and in the last sentence of the page. You should have relevant usage of Bold and italics of your keyword.There should be one internal link to a page on your blog and you should have one image with an alt tag that has your keyword….wait there’s even more Now what if i told you there was a simple WordPress plugin that does all the On-Page SEO, and automatically for you? That’s right AUTOMATICALLY, just watch this 4minute video for more information at. Seo Plugin

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    • johnpersico
      Jul 17, 2013 @ 14:23:40

      Thanks for the comment. I guess it sounds like more work than I want to invoke. What does it matter how many read my blog? Five or five million? Who really cares? See my latest blog on Fame and Honor and Riches. Will I be more loved if five million people a day read my blog. I foresee not.

      Reply

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