Originally typed in the Spring of 1987 for her Philosophy class thesis at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, my mother, Theresa V. Buckroth, had this to share…
“I could begin with “Once Upon A Time,” but this is not a fairy tale; rather it is a mixture of realities that could be made into a collection of short stories.
“My philosophy of life at times is that the planet on which we live or exist is a “scum ball,” covered with a compositions of cells in various shapes and forms. The “living earth” being the giant cell, devouring, regurgitating constantly, swallows its own vomit. There is a constant avoidance in all of us to admit to the constant decay surrounding us. Rather, men mentally annul this, creating an instantaneous beauty in his psyche; fleeting even as it is being observed; gone, then recreated elsewhere in another self pleasing form. The term for this is called “survival,” in which we lie and are deceitful to ourselves, thus enabling us to accept and tolerate our existence.
“Decay is constant. Change is constant. The cell will die and shatter to form new cells. Metamorphically, how can something be new when it is made from something old? Old is old – always. Being born human has the same implications.
“Always having been a wonderer, never a doubter but a questioner, I go along, breathing the physical, which seems to always be out of tune with the mental. This is in reference to aging. Perhaps there is a connection in which both will terminate into an energy. There is a belief that a soul leaving the body upon death shatters into atoms, ions and cations, to share themselves in the formation of new souls. There is much to contemplate, but the cell does not allow the time. If the cell did allot a period of time to the soul, spirit, or whatever its descriptions may be, it might be given time for research in limbo. Perhaps it does, and the designer has allowed the means of escaping regurgitation via the soul.
“You may think me pessimistic and too imaginative. My preference in addressing myself is that of being realistic, with the “real” being a constant changing of blends. Real is now, a second from now, or a split second from now, then it is no longer real. Whatever it was, along with its definitions, becomes unclear, replaced, always waiting and wondering, wondering what the waiting is for. As a Catholic, are you wondering where God fits into all of this (I presume you are)? I wonder too. Being told and taught that God “is,” neither makes me a believer nor a doubter. It is often irrelevant to everything as a whole, but probable in parts.
“To know that I “am” has always been a constant amazement to me. Why “me?” To behave as I do, and think by being is a singular, is presumptuous, but there it is. Avoidance of thinking a truth is not in my nature, but the questioning, not in question form per se, is always close to the surface of my being. Acknowledging everything, all with reasons, accommodated by present, past and future events, is to me accepting what is, for what it is explained to be at that moment.
“How much the physical senses interplay with the physical energy (soul or spirit) is always under scrutiny; which is which, in play at a certain instance. Each is called up for use, alternately or together, through circumstances. Survival of the present physical would naturally call on the physical senses; but what of want for continuance after decay of the physical? Do the physical aspects interfere with the intuition and exploration of the mind? I believe that both the soul and the body play games with each other, both being a separation, yet together. Each is real and unreal; termination of one (physical) is known; termination of the other (soul) is unknown, a theory.
“I have always played various ages, often having to escape into roles only to return, sometimes as if by force from a guide, not knowing a better word for it other than a conscience. The mundane escape being often the unrealistic escape. Dreaming, for example, is a form of escape where our mind takes us away from present awareness, often only for a few seconds, enabling us to become that which we may prefer to be at that instance. Lengthy dreams may be interpreted as an intermission between life and death; a sample perhaps of what is in store for us after termination of the physical.
“This part of my philosophies were easy to convey (hopefully understood and properly interpreted). It is in the examination of ones true thoughts and feelings, in consideration with other humans which is difficult. It is thus, as policies and cultures are always changing, making opinions and theories difficult to convey for understanding and acceptance; whether it is to be “right” or “wrong” for that place in time. Everyone wants to claim the acquisitions of truth and knowledge. Once one appears to have accomplished some or all of a section of learning, the problem is where to utilize it so that it would be advantageous to all concerned. For example, my philosophical views are a “mixed bag.” There are many avenues for thought that are time consuming, especially when there is a continuation of new thoughts being offered for process. In other words, where is a person most useful? Advice often given is that one must look back into oneself and try to be truthful which is very difficult. Also, it calls for self analysis, a dangerous approach for a novice. Thus far, my philosophies emphasize the question of my “being;” it being without a definite definition.
“You asked for it (my philosophies), now you got it (them). Now I will probably get “it” (your negatives and hopefully positives) for telling “it.”
“Here is my attempt at reasoning the culminations of “Terry Philosophies:” I was once a declared Democrat, uncomfortable in what I witnessed such as their inner self-destructive policies. I became a Republican, trying to counter this, which is a small contribution toward attempts for the continuance of a balanced, “Democratic” government. It was a difficult stand; advertising my beliefs in what I had learned. Many close friendships became alienated from me as I became “different” in my thinking, none of which have been replaced. Republicans are in the minority where I reside. Perhaps I have become a “thorn in their side” by independently coming to my own conclusions (or, so I think I have). In spite of their ignorance of me as I am, or would like to think of myself as being, I aspire no great super intelligence for problem solving. I do care about all humans. Having been reputed as being a humanitarian, I am yet to solve completely one humanitarian problem, not even on an individual level, my own included.
“Raised to be a conservative, perhaps classical in nature, in a middle-to-lower-middle social class, there are instilled beliefs that I find difficult to change. A person is what they are born into including their religion and station(s) in life. This being a near truth, it is almost impossible to change one’s course in life. All classes being necessary for a cultural hierarchy, “equality” most likely will bring a smirk to one’s features, expressing a joke from within. Evolution or Darwinism has demonstrated to us that we have millenniums to go before the possibility of reaching the plateau of equality. Try stepping out of your “class” as I have and you will find that there is always the telltale clue of residue from whence you came. Perhaps my naiveté shields me from many insults as I am incapable of recognizing them as such, but rather think of them as another persons’ views. A constructive form of criticism sets me off [and toward] self re-evaluation. I welcome this as I want to know how others view me. I view myself differently from most others and do appreciate corrections if they prove to be positive on the whole.
“Roles I have played in life have been many. Some of which I played without realizing it. Most were accomplished by circumstance, not by choice. Choice came into being only after the fact, e.g., when my mind became aware of the reality of my circumstances. A constant learning process, never truly graduating like a classroom with numerous subjects being taught, all at the same time; each book page containing the unexpected. More and more lessons to be learned, some never to be questioned because of fear in the answer; others to be questioned continuously in search of and for truths and knowledge.
“Never – or extremely seldom – do I plan (perhaps subconsciously). I am often overtaken and turned, not being quite sure whether I had thought to have expressed or exercised a deed set in motion. Thus, never have I felt truly liberated. Therefore, I disqualify myself from being a liberal. One has to know how to act the part before accepting the role. Many connotations of fatalism have been thusly written, but my past life negates this as I will explain.
Born to immigrants during the depression, my independence surfaced at a very early age and was frowned upon by most except the patriarch of the family. My allowed freedom taught me much of human nature and natural science; exploring much, but only allowed to keep the knowledge to myself. There were few capable of understanding or of showing any interests in my newfound knowledge. The so called “working class” never allowed the full extent of wanderlust, neither was there acceptance in fields of endeavor. The “working class” is a type of slavery with the branding of hierarchy intimidated. Distinctions of class will always be in this society as in all societies from the insects on up the ladder of the superior beings in nature. That being the “thinkers,” the human. We, or I, as a person from the “working class” am allowed into the “upper class” only to perform a service, even though I may have attained more knowledge (degrees) than those for whom I perform the services. Therefore, knowledge could be said to be to all important as implied today, but rather the station in life into which one is born.
“Perhaps there is a form of bigotry in all of this; an intolerance to those other than one’s own “class.” I may also be of this make-up, whereas I at times have resented the intrusion of someone into my own “class” other than those which are of an equal “rank.” As other have done to and for me, enabling me to make slight transitions for improvement, while being reminded of one’s station in life. I too hope to help others ameliorate without giving up or sharing my “rank.” Neither am I persuasive in thinking I am alone in this attitude. Hope is in the offspring where education may assist some to slip through the “cracks” into the “upper classes,” or more likely to marry and bear offspring directly into the “upper classes.” The “lower class” parent may never be accepted, but the offspring will, that is, have access to prestigious schools, elevating them to a “rank” of higher distinction.
” The learning process never stops regardless of class until the mind stops its assimilations of knowledge. Oftentimes the physical survives without the mind (brain dead). We are constantly exposed to knowledge and therefore forced to think. I often wonder if the thought processes vary due to genetics. Most likely the answer in “yes” as humans have predispositions for acquiring, coding, and encoding the experience of the exposure to life. Therefore, education must include experience in the elementary years and expand, but only in accordance to choice and potential.
“My first recollection pertaining to my own education took place upon entering first grade. I rebelled against having to be placed in a public school. The classroom was dark and dingy. Singing songs about “Jack Armstrong, The All American Boy” [which] recommended eating the cereal “Wheaties” – did not interest me. Millbury Street School[, Worcester, Massachusetts] is where these experiences took place and are rooted in my memory. Complaining to my parents was to no avail. They did not have the funds to provide me with a parochial education. In desperation, I recall informing my mother of taking the matter into my own hand and enrolling myself in St. Mary’s parochial school [Worcester, Massachusetts]. She evidently didn’t believe me or thought I could never accomplish my desire to leave the dungeons of Millbury Street School (which hasn’t changed except to worsen in is decay. I have since acted as a substitute teacher there for a kindergarten class). The next recollection I have pertaining to this incident is that of walking a distance, opening very large, heavy door, and looking for the Mother Superior’s office. Attending Mass at Our Lady of Czestochowa probably prompted this, as I no doubt observed St. Mary’s students at Mass. Since then, I have a great appreciation for books and knowledge, proving that parochial education in the elementary grades is essential. This formal parochial education continued to the eighth grade. There was definitely no funding the ne high school at St. Mary’s. Public school lasted for three more years. The family patriarch, a blue collar worker, was forced to quit his employment due to an illness that was to last ten years. There were no provisions for medical care as there are today. Families took responsibilities for paying expenses in such matters. Also at this time , was with Japan [and the United States] broke out. Monies were scarce as our country’s economy was having its problems. The military offered good paying jobs. My two [older] brothers joined the [military] service, discontinued their educations, sending money home [as soldiers]. I also left school to work in factories for the “country’s defense.” Employment was chosen for you and once you were placed, in whatever factory the employment bureau thought suitable, it could not be changed without having to go through bureaucratic procedures or a doctor’s note. Education became secondary. Our country needed warm bodies to perform certain duties: everything of a material nature became important, everything except the human which was expedient. Necessities for war were taught in the schools, including the need to kill other humans in order to save the country. No one really understood, but “trust” in the ruling class was brainwashed into most of the population. Disagreement meant you were a traitor. This was accomplished by teaching young men that the uniform was a symbol of peace and manhood and being classified “4F” (unable to perform in combat) [which] meant you were less that a man. Men directly involved with the manufacturing of armaments were deferred. Education for girls was turned off and only their hands were necessary for the manufacturing of armaments to “keep our men going,” meaning killing or be killed. There were no mental challenges, i,e., pertaining to knowledge as a form of wisdom, or logic as a form of meaning. All of this was discouraged. After the war ended, very few went back to school. It again was discouraged, especially for the female who, I suppose, was to marry and be taught to rear a family, perhaps to replace the population that were killed in the war. Men were more fortunate, that is, those that survived and were encouraged to finish their educations under the government “G. I. Bill.” It was the lost Viet Nam War that tuned things around in education. John Dewey’s (an educator in the 1940’s) Liberal form of education drew in importance, i.e., an education for everyone on an equal basis. Trade competition from foreign countries affected the United States’ economy; education in technology was encouraged. Specialization has taken precedence over the advise of past philosophers and educators such as St. Thomas Aquinas, an ancient educator, [along with] Richard Hutchins and John Dewey, modern educators. They believed in an equality in education for everyone according to potential without favoritism. It is true that education should be for all, but the type of education given is what is most important, i.e., one that encompasses the needs for all men.
“It was during this time of student unrest [that] rioting for increased freedoms of choice and equality that I returned to school. In the late 1970’s, government grants were being offered [i.e.,] financial aid for minority groups and those in the poverty level. I was in the latter category, even though I had a full time job. Five children, a need for improvement, and government aid spurned me on to furthering my education. It took me seven years going full and part time to three colleges in two states for me to get a degree in Liberal Arts. My college education began with courses specified for a career in health which I later changed after being exposed to other choices. Liberal Arts was the more sensible choice as I hoped it would widen the field wherein I would have a better chance of finding a job. Employment in the teaching area where I found myself suitable and useful (a humanitarian service), made me aware of competition for college graduates with more degrees, i.e, Masters and Doctorates. This would give me more permanence and security in my chosen field of teaching. I enrolled myself full time for a Master’s Degree in Education, taking a full time job and more student loans, hoping and preying while devoting most of my time to school courses. Perhaps this time a new degree will enable me to be employed full time in teaching and taking courses part time toward a Doctorate Degree. As I have intimated earlier, my elementary education instilled in me a need for seeking knowledge in many areas as are available according to my social class. Nothing lasts forever, especially the good things, and I am taking as many advantages as I can while they are offered.
“With all these positives, I fear that history is being repeated as women are once again encouraged to seek an education in order to get into the work force. This insinuates that women will once again replace men in the work force. In this subtle way, the government is in need, as if in a private war of economics and on the verge of collapse. In a gradual process, we are entering a Socialistic form of government. “Classes” have rebelled fro many years at times with violence and continue to do so, for human needs and more equality. Unless educators are heeded and their policies adhered to, the population as was in past history — when our country was strong — will never be. Than again, one never knows fully the predictability of a population when there is strength and determination in the core. Acknowledgment of personal needs and group activities increase the chances of survival.
“Regarding idealism, realism, and pragmatism concerning all of the above, I “think” I lean toward realism but I cannot be sure as nothing is certain. Beginning with idealism in relation to metaphysics, I am in part agreement concerning the investigations into nature. Idealism is divided into ontology: that which deals with the nature of “being” and epistemology which deals with the limits of human knowledge. This began with the philosophies of Aristotle, whose works were arranged by Andronicus, another philosopher in 79 B. C. Today’s new thoughts pertaining to the formation of the idealistic movement developed in the United States in the second half of the 19th century. They were taking place in religious and philosophical areas. The main tenets of idealism are that God is omnipresent and that the soul or spirit is reality. Man in nature is attuned with a divinity can only perform good deeds. Diseases here on earth are mental in origin. The mind, with this same power, also has the power to heal diseases. On this train of thought, I have serious doubts having been taught human sciences. By the same token, I have witnessed a spiritual healing in which seven segments of exorcism were [that] were administered successfully by a Catholic priest in a Catholic church gathering. It was both frightening and amazing to see! Perhaps there is truth in God’s being the sole of reality and illnesses is due to the failure of man to recognize this. Then again, what is truth as questioned by Plato, the Greek philosopher who implied that there was no such thing; only what is real is acceptable, i.e., the spirit is joined with the physical, outside the body. The idealist, or more the dreamer in my definition [is] one who prefers failure in truth as man’s unity with God causes all negatives on earth. This is where everything can be found, including all answers to all questions. They also believe that the mind is where its at, if only people would realize the minds’ spiritual potential. These to me are not accessible, but nice to think about, especially in times of trouble, when nothing on earth can help in a given situation. Idealists also believe that all objects of knowledge come from man’s senses, as they are mental states and everything is created in the mind.
“Realism on the other hand metaphysically theorizes logic as being realistic. Abstractions such as man are independent from materialistic objects. Again, Plato doctrines are considered, i.e., the universe consists of only words without substantiation, and objects are reality in existence. St. Thomas Aquinas maintained that the universe was in man’s mind with a foundation surrounded by reality. Conceptualists believe that the universe exists in the concept of ideas emitting from man’s mind only without any help from the outside. Materialists consider matter to be reality and conscience is the human nervous system. Naturalists believe that cause and effect is and by nature is sufficient. I bring all of this into the writing as to me it is all related. Realism to me is a series of objects that can be perceived substantiating the reality and separate existence outside the mind which is also an epistemological view. Nature and all its contents, tactile and otherwise, can be experienced via ideas and the intellect.
“Pragmatism is both a metaphysical and epistemological in their doctrine(s). This entails a persons personal “guess” by which one determines whether an experience or happening is due to either the natural or the unnatural. It is like “walking the fence,” whatever pleased the intellect at a given time will prove to be sufficient in filling in the blanks; epistemology being knowledge and its concept studied is truth, perception, and evidence. The relationship between what a person knows and what they object is known as. Again, Plato enters with defining epistemology as the existence of an unchanging world with invisible forms and ideas; none of which contain certainty in knowledge. Objects are imperfect; only mathematics and philosophy are considered real. An unseen world is the goal, or should be, of a human.
“Aristotle believed that knowledge comes from direct experience. It was he that set down the first rules of logic. I find myself also agreeing with this line of thought: that knowledge comes from perception, but also is used as a guide in life and not as a means to an end. St. Thomas Aquinas followed Aristotle in points of logic where the human intellect gains the knowledge of nature, but only via God. Modern logic in accordance to John Locke includes inductive logic, i.e, knowing is not derived intuitively, but rather from experience or the reflection of a man’s mind on a given subject or activity. He was somewhat of a skeptic.
“Pragmatism in itself was formed by Charles Pierce, William James, and John Dewey at the turn of the 20th century. Their empiricism maintained that knowledge is an instrument of action and beliefs and should be interpreted according to their usefulness with rules for their predictability. Logical empericists clarify definition and rules of inference using science, for example, with words such as: knowledge, perceiving, and probable. These are used as verbal rules to make definitions clear.
“Every thing is constantly debated which oftentimes adds to my confusion as to what is true and untrue; [what] is certain and uncertain, and on and on. All is clear or unclear at different times and is different areas depending, I suppose, on what is in “synchronization” with whatever, i.e., body and mind, mind and the innate, the innate and the subconscious, etc.
“Maybe I am none of the things I think I am. My views and beliefs may appear otherwise to another person reading my philosophies. I would more likely be very surprised if someone agreed with my philosophies. Perhaps I really don’t know the true meaning of an idealist, realist, and/or that of a pragmatic, but at least I do think and try to fathom the depths of philosophers. There is one thing I am sure of pertaining to the majority of humans: they are materialistic. Their realms consist mainly of substances composed of various elements use mainly for personal purposes. They fantasize life on earth as a place where all said materials must be gathered and treasured as they deem themselves “classless” without them. As Cardinal Cushing once said, “I came into this earth naked and I will leave this earth naked,” a humble and charitable person by we can pattern ourselves. Close your eyes and everything disappears until you open your eyes again; but the eyes and the [other] senses are not forever. When your eyes are closed, you know that you are still “you,” which does not disappear, meaning the spirit or the soul.
“Who taught me all I know and what will teach me what I have yet to learn? How much was innate at birth? How much experience have we assimilated? What is more important and should take most of our energies — the plateau during life or the plateau after death? We think we are taught to think from the womb, and therefore must learn, teach, and learn again which is infinite in life. Science has taught me that life is a rom of energy and that these energies should be put to use in all physical areas. How much is spent on thinking and learning? I would like to know how much energy is used for mental exercises in comparison to physical exercises during a specific lifetime.
“I once rad of a man who made a study of weighing a person immediately before and after death. Each time, the body weighed two ounces less after death. He also did the same for various animals, but the weight stayed the same. No one weighed him immediately before or after his death. Many lessons could be derived from this, even for myself as I neglected to cut out ad same the person’s name or the article. Who really cared about the study other than the experimenter himself? Why not? As for me, it would mad a good study, as good as or better than those done by some of our greater scientists. It would be in the Idealistic belief that the two ounces were that of a soul being freed of the physical. Those to whom I have mentioned this took it as a joke and maybe it was, but not to the man who was making the study.
“Nothing really changes. There are and always have been good things and bad things in my life. Perhaps to a different degree than, say, those “stuck” in perpetual ignorance and poverty, or those endowed with great intelligence and wealth. My life, I think, as I can never be totally sure (depending on the interpreter), has fluctuated between ignorant and lower middle class, middle class, upper middle class, and back down to lower class with some gained intelligence. All of this, or part at least, depended on the economy of our country.
“The last of my “wonderings” is one that has been continuing from my youth to this present day: that is the hypocrisy of the human. From what I have witnessed and observed, hypocrisy stems mainly from fear of harm to one’s person, i.e., in various forms from another human. Therefore, a person must by hypocritical and not vulnerable. I sound pessimistic but I really don’t want to be. The times I am happiest is when I look into the eyes of an infant or a very young child and witness an unparalleled beauty and innocence. It makes me smile and feel warm inside. Is what I see at the time really true or am I searching fro beauty to give me joy and hope? Questions, always questions and never enough answers.”
Theresa Buckroth, ED 601-1, Spring, 1987