Ship of shadows

Very seldom happens to me, but it happens to me, and today it is happening: a certain pessimism about the human condition, a reason for Einstein when he said that “two things are infinite: human stupidity and the universe, and I’m not sure about the second“. It happens to me when in a day I receive too much negative information about the society in which we live, those days my faith in the possibilities of humanity fail. Deep down I still believe in ourselves, but I see so much backwardness, so much blindness and confusion even in the most basic things, that my mood drops.

nave_de_sombras_fritz_leiberI write this article not to regret about the human condition, which would be a useless act, but to try to put some light on some issues; that’s where the title comes from: ship of shadows, by Fritz Leiber, a story from the mid-twentieth century that moves between the genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror, a masterpiece of its kind, something like a work of cult, we could say that it is a Gothic fiction, and thinking about our society that title has come to me. To this ship of shadows that is our society and to ourselves as members of society, a good illumination is needed to clear obscurities.

I know very well that these lines will be read by very few people, and therefore probably their effect on society will be zero, and really the direct effect will be, but indirectly we can not know, the indirect effect is to put some light on certain issues in a handful of people, who in turn can bring some light to others, and thus propagate a more awakened vision. The original writing will fall into oblivion, but its effect, although minimal, may exist, and that is enough reason to try.


There are simple statements that we should accept and apply without discussion because they are basically statements of ethical principles. For example:

The end does not justify the means.

Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.

In our society these two basic principles are often not accepted or applied. Absolutely. Quite the opposite. We get lost in a tangle of disparate thoughts, feelings, emotions, blind ideologies, and we end up acting against those principles. Let’s see examples of current events.

Amnesty International and other international organizations have been documenting cases of torture and other ill-treatment in some countries for decades, committed by members of state security forces and bodies on public roads, in police stations, and within the context of the fight against terrorism, which does not they have been duly investigated or sanctioned.

Justice understood as revenge, and the fight against terrorism, are the ends that justify means of proceeding that violate basic human rights. The end does not justify the means.

A Maths department of an institute. At that time there were six teachers: four females and two males. One of the females tells another that she has a bachelorette party from a friend that night. She replies that the “boys” who usually “act” (without wanting to offend the guild of actors) are pigs, which disgust him, she tells that violently removed one of them, who asked “maybe are you a lesbian?Another female enters the conversation: they beat me, they throw you on top of me. The fourth female listens and agrees. The first female, the one that started the topic, says lapidary: “is that to enjoy you have to go drunk“.

The four teachers, all over 30, had participated in various occasions in that kind of light orgy in which bachelorette parties have become years ago. It’s like an obligation, whether it disgusts you or not, and if it disgusts you too much, get drunk. The ideology of feminist liberation has established that it must be done so, and, point, it is not discussed. You have to do it yes or yes to be equal, to defend equality … with whom? And what? In strip clubs for men, the woman was reduced to a sexual object, and that was not to be proud; well, let’s do the same with men, right? reduce them to sexual objects, so we equalize in lowering a human being to be an object for feel myself more powerful. Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you. The end does not justify the means.

Politics is another area of lack of common sense, empathy, kindness … although it should be the opposite. Just Google some assertions:

She gets out, and she starts asking me all kinds of ridiculous questions. And, you know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” D. Trump about Fox News reporter Megan Kelly.

“One thing to be supportive, and another is to be in exchange for nothing “- M.Rajoy., Spanish president of government.

Often politics degenerates is a kind of boxing match in which cheats are allowed. The end does not justify the means.

I think the whole problem centers on a lack of awareness development. The thoughts, the ideas, are very powerful, very useful, as tools at our service are irreplaceable. But without constant supervision they can degenerate and produce monsters. It comes to be like Asimov’s laws of robotics, that over all the artificial intelligence of robots, are the simple and higher principles that ensure that the robot will not fall into Machiavellian, destructive behaviors:


  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

pepitogrilloHuman beings also need simple principles of a higher level than we can think of, principles that we should not forget, on the contrary, we should continually review our actions and thoughts to verify that we are not losing ourselves in the shadow ship of our mind or from other minds. They may simply be human rights, or it may be that even those human rights are still too complicated to apply in all possible cases. Religions in part served for that, because that was the tables of the law of Moses, or the sacred books: basic rules directing all human action and thinking. In this 21st century we still do not have clear and present the basic principles of thinking and doing that should not be violated in any way. And it is not enough to know them, to apply them you need an awake, vigilant awareness that continuously monitors our activity, and alerts us when we deviate. A constant self-observation. Do not go on autopilot, it is dangerous, there are storms in sight. Something like Jiminy Cricket of Pinocchio. Or in a modern language, a metaconscience, a vigilant awareness of consciousness, or a mindfulness awareness, extended consciousness that includes what happens and what happens to us, simultaneously.





2 thoughts on “Ship of shadows

  1. You’re right in saying, ‘the whole problem centers on a lack of awareness development.’ I think it’s more than that, society is facing distraction; the general public gradually lose the ability to discern what is of value and what is not. The answer is the ongoing investigation into what subjective awareness actually means. Change comes generationally…

    • Thanks for reading and comment old chap; agree, indeed, distraction is a consequence of lack of awareness, and the ability of facing distraction comes from a trained focus of attention. Too many superficial information difficult maintain the focus, so I think now more than ever is necessary for people do some training of their attention as a regular, daily activity. Hope it comes soon, in the meantime I’m trying it, teaching mindfulness local workshops, is my little contribution 🙂

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