Another Animal at the Zoo

In an effort to remain sane and to maintain rational emotional feelings, for several weeks mariner has avoided American news programming, tolerating only BBC, CGTN (China), selected CSPAN and, with the aid of the fast forward button, The Eleventh Hour on MSNBC. For years mariner has been saturated by the home and do-it-yourself networks. He tends not to watch fictional programming.

What is left? Science channels (seen all the programs), geological and environmental programming (been everywhere, travelled through time and space, seen all the conditions); mariner knows how to be a junk dealer, bootlegger, hotrod mechanic, gardener, and furniture maker. Scrounging about for anything, mariner uncovered the veterinary shows. There are several series. The theme is that animals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish of all kinds are brought to a vet’s clinic having all kinds of maladies.

Mariner suffered a binge watch the other night. He had enlightenment. As he watched the animals, he wondered how they dealt with human creatures while not knowing the intellectual dimensions, knowledge and cause and effect processes that are foisted upon them. In most cases the patients had learned to tolerate humans, even accepting dependence for comfort and care. But intellectually, there had to be an immense gap between patient reality and human reality. When they were healed, did they have a causal awareness between newfound health and the creatures wearing masks and poking with needles?

Then mariner had his burst of insight. In 150 years, when artificial intelligence has been thoroughly ensconced in human culture, humans will have the exact intellectual experience as the animals. There will be no way to link human consciousness with the surreal reasoning of a robot. This insight applies not only to visiting our electronic vets but also our electronic government, our electronic softball game versus robots and (one wonders) our spousal relationships.

We will be no more than a baby opossum experiencing the AI world in complete ignorance; tolerating them and even accepting dependence for comfort and care. There’s always a concern that AI vets will, just as human vets, decide to have us put down.

Ancient Mariner

 

Deep State

Mariner bought a black jacket recently and had the words ‘Deep State’ painted in large black letters across the back. The effect was an appropriately discreet appearance which would be apropos for a hidden operation within a government bureaucracy. With anticipation, mariner wore the jacket to a family dinner last night only to be disillusioned because the family did not know what ‘Deep State’ meant. Mariner determined immediately to write a post about Deep State.

Generally, the term deep state is defined as a government within a government – an unofficial and discreet operation that defies the overt policies and operations of elected leaders who attempt to derail traditional government functions. Mariner learned of the term reading news articles about the Turkey situation where a fascist is attempting to dismember the democratically functioning government.

Then, here in the United States of all places, Donald raised the specter of a Deep State run by Barack Obama using the intelligence agencies to spy on him with the intent of removing him from the campaign and then from his Presidency. Donald still claims that a Deep State operation is causing him problems, blaming it for everything from White House leaks to the information obtained by Robert Mueller.

It is a conspiracy theory, of course. During the campaign, Obama (who read his intelligence briefings) learned that the Russians were attempting to interfere with the US election. Barack ordered the FBI to open an investigation. As we have learned in endless news broadcasts, the investigation began to discover links between Russians, WikiLeaks, Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, which Donald hired to influence voters. Many of Donald’s coterie were communicating with Russian operatives. Consequently, what began as a legitimate investigation into Russian tampering eventually involved Donald.

We shan’t engage in an analysis of Donald’s ineptitude but to him, the world is either trustworthy lieutenants or a conspiracy against him. Add this to his permanent vendetta to erase anything barackian, and he believes there is a Deep State operating within government intelligence perhaps still run by Barack.

Mariner enjoys wearing his jacket.

Ancient Mariner

 

A Biopsy of the Christian Faith

It all started with Jesus. Today, Jesus might be found in Black Lives Matter or some other rebellious, antiauthority group. He was no saint, for sure. When Jesus said, “The first will be last and the last will be first,” that was a literal statement. The authorities of the time, both governmental and religious, were the oppressors. Jesus devoted his life to caring for the plight of the common people and resisted sources of oppression. His pastoral approach and absolute commitment to his cause was remembered by many and in time led to authors writing about him and advocating his principles.

Authors had little factual data to draw on in those days. It was a time before the printing press, dictionaries, and fact-driven accounts of history. Conceptual writing depended largely on metaphor and hyperbole. These limitations about data allowed writers to emphasize the qualities of Jesus that were unique and deemphasize political and cultural content.

The significance of Jesus’s life is not to be taken lightly. It is difficult even in today’s data driven society to articulate the spiritual qualities that are drawn from his life. His core values of absolute empathy, unlimited forgiveness, and selfless dedication remain the bastion of western civility two thousand years later.

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It is difficult today given Hollywood heroes, news heroes, and documented heroes to understand how Jesus became an international icon. Without the media we have today heroes would be hard to find. What elevated Jesus to hero status and the source of spiritual inspiration was the hardship of daily life at the time. Oppression was the political device for managing the masses. If one was a commoner, one’s life wasn’t worth much. Church versus state didn’t exist at the time; there was only state. If one expressed critical views about the Emperor as godhead, one likely would be imprisoned if not worse. Common citizens longed for purpose and value in their lives; they wanted to be saved from their plight.

The term ‘Christ’ is derived from middle Greek ‘Christos.’ The first reference to the word is in Acts 11:26 where its use is noted in Antioch, a city located in Turkey. Early followers of the Christian movement were considered agitators and troublemakers and suffered greatly. To Christians, it seemed reasonable that respecting others rather than oppressing them would provide a way out, a path to a better life. Jesus was the personification of this path. His message and the politics that came with the message spread quickly in the Roman Empire.

A century or two later, the story is told of Emperor Constantine that, at the end of a successful battle, he saw clouds in the shape of a cross and took them to be a sign of divine intervention by the god of the Christians. He issued a decree that Christians were not to be persecuted throughout the Roman Empire. Within a few years, Christianity was practiced openly around the entire Mediterranean region. The popularity was good and bad. The Christian message was good but local theology and doctrine ranged from outright magic and demons to sublime isolation. The effect of parochial preference overshadowed the core message of Christianity. Constantine was confused by all the variations and decided there had to be one theology, one doctrine and one ritual. In 325 AD he summoned Christian leaders from across the Empire to gather in the city of Nicaea and establish the official version of Christianity.

The result of that gathering is what most people today consider to be the Christian religion. The collection of books that comprise the Holy Bible was determined at Nicaea. Key doctrines of faith such as the Trinity, transformation and salvation were established. Principles of ritual were clarified and centered Christianity on the authentic principles of Jesus’s life: empathy, forgiveness and dedication.

 

[Mariner is certain that is the shortest exegesis of Christianity he has ever written.]

 

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A biopsy will be taken that includes parts of theology, faith and ritual:

Theology – A Christian believes in one God. A Christian believes in a loving God. A Christian believes in God as a singularity, meaning all that exists is God; God is not a personal, opinionated or historically interactive God.

Faith – The relationship between a Christian, Jesus and God is one of spiritual coexistence. This is expressed as a triangle called the Trinity. Sharing in the spirituality of the Trinity allows transformation and salvation to occur – a state of being wholly within the Grace of God’s love.

Ritual – Living in accordance with the life and discipline of Jesus; experiencing God’s power through a combined effort of empathy, forgiveness and selflessness; sacrificing the physical nature in behalf of the spiritual nature (laying down one’s life for another is a transformative act).

Mariner wants to clarify an important term before describing the state of the biopsy. The word ‘empathy’ is used frequently when one would expect the word ‘love.’ In mariner’s opinion, the English language is short on words for the various kinds of love that exist. Something isn’t right when we say, “I love God” and also say, “I love the coffee table.” During the time of Jesus, it took three Greek words to say love: eros, meaning physical attraction; philos, meaning brotherly love or friend love; agape, meaning love of God or conversely God’s love of humanity accompanied by a feeling of awe. It seems correct to combine a genuine feeling of empathy with acting in behalf of that empathy, and further to commit one’s self to continuously perform in behalf of empathetic opportunities – in other words, the core behavior of Jesus.

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The biopsy.

Generally, theology is in rough shape. Surprisingly, in recent decades more Christians have grown comfortable with a God that is a singularity while still advocating faith and ritual. But for centuries Christian education began by starting with page 1 of the Old Testament. Few students if any stayed with Sunday School long enough to learn the New Testament – the Christian part. The Old Testament, aside from a theistic relationship full of lamenting about God’s fickle ways, presents an image of God which is very anthropomorphic and very much a God who will interfere with history if what’s going on isn’t to God’s liking. A large majority of Christians with just Old Testament exposure still relate to the Old Testament God to help them with their daily activities or otherwise blame God for acting against them if bad things happen.

In the New Testament, God is a love power, a power that created the universe and all that exists. God drives a hard bargain for believers because believers must expand God’s love in order to benefit from God’s love.

Faith, too, is in poor shape as Christian practitioners cut short the dynamic of living hand in hand with God and thereby be transformed into a life of infinite reward. Faith in anything is hard to come by these days. Cultural stability for all of humanity is not readily available. The human tendency is to batten the hatches and retreat to a less troublesome spot where the stormy seas are kept away. However, this is a good time for Christians to measure their faith. Instead of retreating, step out into the world to improve the situation. This behavior requires a Christian to have faith that God will ‘respond’ with feelings of comfort and wellbeing despite the physical and emotional tribulations of spreading the quieting power of God’s love. Remember that Christianity is a transformative religion; somewhere it says your faith will make you whole.

Ritual is in critical condition. Many parts of ritual have ceased to function. Ritual is where Christians execute the core values of Jesus’s life: empathy, forgiveness and selfless dedication. Too many Christians are pew Christians. In Matthew 28:19-20, Christians are charged to go forth and spread the Word. In churches, this is called evangelism. Further, the Word can’t spread in pews; empathy can’t be served in pews; forgiveness can’t be served in pews. The church service has become the primary act in a religion that calls for finding salvation by giving one’s personal, face-to-face actions to people in need. The church service has a role in restoring theology, faith and ritual but the God relationship is outside.

Finally, selfless dedication to the church building has replaced selfless dedication to God and spreading God’s love. For too many Christians, the buildings and assets are sacrosanct without the accompanying theology, faith and ritual found in Jesus.

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Sociologists would step in at this point to explain the ill condition of Christianity by reflecting on the influence of changing culture, good and bad economic security, and the will of the flesh as core to the survival of the species. Economists would defend the importance of wealth even at the poorest levels of society. Scientists, educators and data experts would say that Jesus’s Israel no longer exists. Even Joseph Campbell would imply that the Jesus myth has faltered.

Mariner holds that these are excuses but not reasons for ill health in the biopsy. Religion is the responsibility of the individual. It is a personal search for a richer experience. Even without the gathering at Nicaea, humans would search for quality values in life. Many stop at wealth; many are incapable; most seek comfort, avoiding spiritual responsibility as an enriching experience.

More than ever before, our times need Jesus walking the streets spreading the love of God. Jesus, however, gave his life on the cross; it’s time for Christians to pick up the cross and take his place.

Ancient Mariner

 

Philosophy Recipe: Stir and Bake a Long Time

Philosophers are underappreciated. To most of us, embroiled in the intense competitions of the present to make a living, raise children, and root for the Chicago Bears, philosophers are too droll, write boring stuff and write in a dense, laborious style. However, it is philosophers who set the stage for what we believe, what is moral, what the value of life is, and invent the glue that makes sense of human culture. As a new era of history begins, it is philosophers that set the compass.

If one went to college or had an excellent history class in high school, one is aware of the Age of Enlightenment. References set the dates of enlightenment between 1650 and 1800 AD. Notable names of the era, philosophers all, are Bacon, Descartes, Hume, Voltaire, Grotius, Rousseau, Spinoza, Hobbes, Newton, and many more; check Wikipedia or your library for detailed contributions.

We should note that the philosophical burst previous to the Age of Enlightenment lasted over 700 years from about 650 BC to the time of Christ and included Xenophanes, Socrates, Plato, Euclid, Aristotle and others; again reference Wikipedia for more detail. From the time of Christ until about 1500, authoritarians, pragmatists and utilitarians took over to form the Holy Roman Empire and the Dark Ages. The philosophical growth during this time leaned more to the standardization of religious philosophy and practice. Little profound technical or economical change occurred except for mechanical improvements to daily life such as improved water and sewage and the beginning of practical medicine.

As mentioned, religious practices also are cyclic. Comparing historical cycles, Saint Augustine and the Nicene Council occurred in the third century AD; the Holy Roman Empire was established in 800, the Reformation began to emerge in 1500 and today religion worldwide of every spiritual inclination is under duress as pantheism grows in popularity.

Back to the Age of Enlightenment, toward the end of that Age, the Industrial Revolution emerged, throwing labor-based economics to the wind. Needless to say today in similar times, the underlying progress of science, technology, communication, relatively improved education and a newly discovered spherical world led to a hodge-podge of government theories, economic models and disruption in social class stability that cyclically reoccurs across all of human history.

Assuming a harmonic cycle of history, lasting about 600 years give or take, history indeed repeats itself. Comparing cycles (the last one started around 1550-1600), we today are at the point of the Luddite labor rebellion in 1811, the food shortage/population explosion during the Napoleonic wars in 1803-1815, and the Civil War in 1860. In other words, there is cultural turmoil among the masses. Old values, particularly related to human values versus economics, have shifted sufficiently that previous behaviors seem unproductive.

It often is difficult to make sense of the evolution of cultural value because we can’t see the forest for the trees. Events occur every day around the world that shift philosophy, religion and culture tiny bit by tiny bit. A simple example is moving from marriages arranged by families to sacramental marriages to freewill marriages to homosexual marriages to increasing numbers of legally-based marriages sanctioned by the State. Shifts occur event by event, conflict by conflict, official recognition by official recognition. Change is not a consistent path: there are ups and downs, movement is forward and backward.

With a little distance in time, however, one can identify the evolving harmonic cycle. Today, it may be difficult to identify the current harmonic cycle because of all the trees but there are signs – as confusing to us as signs for early H. sapiens during the Iron Age, Baal worshipers 600 years before Christ, Dark Age serfs, the Luddites, and the Reaganites.

Further, there are many similarities between recent lifestyle improvements and those lifestyle improvements that occurred during the Roman Empire. It may be an intellectual reach but in terms of improved daily life, radio, television, air conditioning, plastic and the invention of the combustion engine may be comparable to an easier life in Roman times. Also similar is the lack of a tour de force of philosophers during the Roman era. Noted a few paragraphs ago, the occurrence of a philosophical era did not happen from the time of Christ until the Age of Enlightenment. Daily comfort easily displaces the need for a new philosophy of life. Fortunately, cage boxing, baseball and curling have replaced savage entertainment at the Coliseum.

Will we, in this modern cycle without a philosophical era, suffer the lack of philosophic discipline? As we shift from technical reality to Artificial Intelligence as reality, will we have a new philosophy to hold together unfamiliar ethics, economies, human values and a new harmonic cycle?

Understand that futurists are not philosophers. Futurists predict events and conditions; philosophers interpret and create ideas. Lacking a philosophical groundswell to guide us in this harmonic cycle, will we suffer corporations as we suffered the authoritative behavior of the Holy Roman Church? Will we be forgotten like serfs during the Dark Ages? Many educated and respected futurists, including the renown Yuval Noah Harari, fear that as corporatism separates from humanism as a reason to sustain profits, the wellbeing of ‘useless’ humans will suffer simply because they aren’t needed. Sadly, this is normal behavior throughout history. Today, marketing to more humans means more profits. In the future, it is likely that profit will be built into the corporate model because corporations will control human value without human preferences.

So it is, without a bond of philosophic interpretation, that our next generations must deal with rootless perceptions of what is right, what is moral, what is just. It is the wild, wild west all over again. Oh, for a philosopher’s recipe.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Did it ever occur to the reader

Did it ever occur to the reader that analog clocks with moving hands and digital clocks with numbers tell different times? Mariner is old enough to remember when only analog clocks existed. Consequently, like everyone else, he grew up reading the whole face of the clock, not time-specific minute markers. If you would like to have the reading experience of an Evelyn Wood speed reader, quickly look at an analog clock for just a tenth of a second. Two things occurred: First, you did not subvocalize the minute marks, which is what speed reading is like; your brain took a picture of the whole face.

Second, your brain immediately perceives values on the clock face to be behavioral rather than temporal. For example, if one is preparing to leave the house for an appointment, the time on the clock face says, “Wow, I’d better get ready to go, it’s almost ten!” Almost ten is purely relative to the viewer’s situation and has nothing to do with finite measurement.

On the other hand, a digital clock zeroes in on the minute as the primary information. Again, the brain takes a picture of stationary digits but another mental step is required to convert the digital picture into a behavioral response. Because the brain perceives the digits as digital value alone, it is possible to look at a digital clock solely to know what minute it is without having a behavioral response. This effect actually is handy for people who don’t sleep well; they can check a digital clock throughout the night and avoid having to deal with behavioral responses.

Being the old generation yet again, with a digital clock mariner must momentarily search to construct meaningful human context for a digital value. Using an analog clock, however, he automatically has a human response. In his house, there are many analog clocks.

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Did it ever occur to the reader that our relationship with numbers – no matter why we use them from telling time to building pyramids to astrophysics – is the same as our reading of a digital clock? Our brains need human comprehension of value before numbers have meaning. For example, on sequential days Betty bought 7+4+19 = 30. Thirty what? If we say elephants, that’s a lot of elephants; if we say penny candies, that has a different behavioral response – either example is a response meaningful to humans – a value that numbers alone don’t possess.

When Albert Einstein wrote his “Special Theory of Relativity” in 1905 (he was 26), he had to devise demonstrations that made his theories understandable. He could have shown his mathematical formulas all day to no avail. However, by cleverly relating the special theory to a behavioral experience, people at least had an inkling of what Albert was talking about. One of his famous demonstrations was the elevator thought experiment. To view an entertaining reproduction with a quadcopter in an elevator, see: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=albert+einstein+elevator+theory&&view=detail&mid=5DCA66974B5DEE42C8CD5DCA66974B5DEE42C8CD&&FORM=VRDGAR

The moral of this epistle is that as humans we are bound to a human view of reality. How much more is there to the Universe, the flower garden, the weather, even of ourselves that we cannot see or experience? What is the Universe really like beyond our senses?

Ancient Mariner

Quietude

First, let’s set the situation. Mariner and his wife don’t watch television much – maybe some taped British stuff and tennis if the men aren’t castrating themselves by wearing their billcap backwards. Especially we don’t watch news programs. We don’t use social media for the reasons that are currently in the news (Zuckerberg and Cambridge Analytica). We still have flip phones rather than smartphones for reasons similar to the issues with social media. Finally, as if to put a point on it all, we won’t send our spittle to DNA mappers because that data, too, will find its way into data mining corporations.

Mind you, we keep abreast of important news around the world and in our own bailiwick by reading quality magazines, targeted non-fiction books and websites of proven quality.

So it’s quiet around the house.

The first sensation is how quiet it is. Mariner went so far as to play a few oldies on the boom box. But quietness quickly normalizes. It isn’t long before one starts to putter about – like mariner’s recent post about his home office, which had not been straightened in his lifetime. It is amazing how strong the urge is to accomplish something; mariner is fortunate that garden season is approaching. Still, he has dusted off the woodshop tools and has a few projects going. The reader must take note of the dreaded influence of constant television: lethargy.

The difficult part of the day is the evening unless perhaps one watches daytime entertainment that often is tailored for female viewers. In the evening, the television programmers really taunt us with interesting trailers and human interest sitcoms – or cops and monsters, whichever. Even the special subject channels like Science, National Geographic and Bloomberg mix in low quality programs. We’ve remodeled enough HGTV homes. Finally, for those who don’t suffer from attention deficit syndrome, there are the movie channels. One may say, “Let’s watch Sound of Music again; that was a good movie,” or “Isn’t that Katherine Hepburn? Boy she looks young!”

Unless one already is a reader, it takes a bit of commitment to replace the television with reading. Commit to reading an entire book and finish it before you cave in to TV. If reading isn’t your talent, look for a hobby. Four nights a week at the fitness center may change your entire life. Want to meditate and escape for a while? Knitting, crocheting, artwork, woodcarving and cabinetry are excellent. It is amazing how many folks do jigsaw puzzles; that hobby requires staying power! Card playing is still a good pastime. You get the drift.

But now we turn to the most evil distraction from normal life: the smartphone. Fortunately, mariner and his wife don’t have them but we see the strong distraction in others and fear what effect it may have on our relationships. You have heard all the silly examples but here’s one or two: children talking to each other in the same room using their smartphones instead of simply talking face-to-face. How about wandering around the neighborhood looking like a broken steering wheel looking for unknown objects? How about those ‘free’ download games that keep your thumbs in top condition and impose irreversible Pavlovian Syndrome such that you become a hermit in the middle of a crowded downtown street or during your great-grandmother’s 110th birthday; “Oh, has everyone left?”

Mariner admits to prejudice primarily because the data mining corporations deliberately impose smartphone addiction then try to redirect one’s life to some corporation’s advantage (Ever search for furniture online and suffer the furniture popups ad infinitum?). Prejudiced or not, he has learned the value of quietude. Quietude means the brain is off the leash of constant distraction. Once the frontal lobes and the amygdala are free to experience what’s real rather than experiencing manufactured reality, quietude becomes a pleasant experience unavailable in the telecommunications world. Let’s not lose the joy of speaking face-to-face.

Ancient Mariner

 

The Good Things . . .

When he and his mob are gone.
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Many lament the oral abuse of our American language. When we speak, it is too rapid, too slurred, often grammar is chopped, missing or short-sheeted; volume rapidly fades past the noun clause; syllables are tossed away. Sung lyrics are unintelligible, sometimes giving way to dramatic, stage-bounding convulsions to find understanding. The good thing is Jane Pauley. Each and every one of you must tune to CBS Sunday Morning and focus on Jane Pauley as she speaks our language. Mariner is notably deaf but he needs no hearing aid to understand Jane. She speaks her words giving each word and its syllables time, space, volume, and tone. With Jane, there is linguistic beauty and grace that must hold forth – then the word is spoken for our ears to hear and enjoy.
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Unfortunately, dogs often are treated as badly as human black slaves were treated in that terrible time. Some humans physically abuse their dog – finding twisted self worth for themselves in the process. Others are remiss even in providing food, water, warmth or coolness. Many humans do not want the overhead of what any family member requires: cleanliness, nutrition, and importantly, empathy. For tens of thousands of years, dogs have adapted to humans by watching them. Dogs don’t need words; they watch body language. More often than not, words interfere with what the dog comprehends. Dogs will learn procedures we want them to learn not because they comprehend our reasoning but because they want our positive response. The good thing is that moment when we and the dog have a common bonding experience. There is a common acceptance and respect for one another on a common, empathetic plane. By the way, this is also a good thing between humans.
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Entertainment providers, especially television, make a point of teaching viewers to behave in callous and otherwise unproductive ways. The wayward Donald contributes greatly to this effort. Firing any employee less than two days before they can apply for pension is a great example of unproductive behavior. Sociologists suggest our increasing disrespectful attitude jaundices our American culture. We have become judgmental and crass as the first order of behavior. The good thing is decorum. When the world is in tumult, behave in a respectful manner. Acting with decorum has the same effect as turning down the burner under a pot of water that is boiling too vigorously; order is restored – even if momentarily, there is a moment of rationality. Before we judge, before we strike out, show respect and be nice. It is a good thing.
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Mariner has mentioned this good thing before: Pass it along. Typically, one may help pick up a spilled garbage can or help a person carry groceries to their car. These acts are to be commended but most of these gestures require that the passer is not too inconvenienced. However, pass it along can be a strong influence in changing the world’s behavior. Make pass it along a habit in daily life. For example, break down boxes and tie them together for the folks who pick up recyclables; arrange to pick up groceries for a friend who is incapacitated or a shut-in; defer to others waiting in line; walk your neighborhood specifically to pick up trash or to help out when the situation occurs. Another word for pass it along is decorum.
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There are many good things around. Look for them. They are usually buried in disorganization, stressful situations, undue prejudice, inconvenience, and negligence.

Ancient Mariner

Mariner’s Wife

Poets have their unique qualities. Edgar Allen Poe carried an overarching mood in his poems; examples are “The Raven,” “Annabellee,” and “Al Aaraaf.” Billy Collins wrote with a light touch; for example, “Man Listening to Disc.” And the injection of the self into the poems of Robert Frost was unique; for example, “The Road not Taken.”

Mariner’s wife is a serious and talented poet. She has won contests, writes about every aspect of life and, with seeming ease, can create poetry from events anyone else would dismiss without a thought. She, too, has a unique quality in her poems. She injects a twist of thought in her poems. It’s a twist the rest of us would not imagine yet we are forced to take note of it. In the following poem, his wife addresses the relationship of humanity with their God. As we relate to the human condition, we are led to a heavenly twist:

                         At the Gathering of the Great Congregation

At the gathering of the great congregation,

The Lord made his way down the aisle,

Shaking hands, smiling, nodding,

Reaching out to touch a shoulder

Tousling the heads of the infants

Catching the eye of everyone—

Amazing how he acknowledged

Each of us individually.

 

He mounted the steps

Paused briefly before the altar

Then moved over to the pulpit.

There was a great hush

As at the beginning of the world.

Now at last,

At long last,

The meaning of life would be revealed

And the purpose of our deaths.

 

The Lord said, “In the beginning…”

And paused.

A ripple of laughter spread through the congregation.

“Well,” he said with a smile,

“How did you expect me to begin?

In the beginning, I started a story.

It started with light and stars, and galaxies,

And earth and animals and a garden.

And you.

It was a story and you were part of it.”

 

A murmur of puzzlement arose from the congregation

As they turned to each other in dismay.

A hand went up.

The Lord acknowledged a young man.

 

“Is that it? It was all just a story?

We were just characters in a cosmic play?”

 

The Lord smiled. “Just a story. Yes.

But what more could there be?”

 

Voices, questions began to emerge

From the murmuring congregation.

 

“You put us through birth and death and suffering,

Through war and disease

And fear and pain

For a story?”

 

The Lord said,

“Things happen in a story.

If you want to keep it going,

Things have to keep happening.”

 

“But why,” the young man persisted,

“Did you make us suffer?”

 

The Lord replied,

“It was a big story. It had to contain everything.

Worlds, even.”

He paused and added quietly,

“I suffered, too.”

 

Now there was anger as the questions jabbed out.

“You suffered? Give me a break! It was your story,

You started it. You could have made it better.

We didn’t have to die.

We could have lived forever in the garden.”

 

The Lord was patient and kind. He said,

“One of you could have lived in the garden, perhaps,

But not two. Two is conflict and conflict is lack of peace,

It is pain—and it is also story.   Once there were two

The story spun out inevitably.”

 

An older man interjected,

“Are you saying you had no control of it?”

 

The Lord turned toward him and said,

“I could have wrapped it sooner.

At any point I could have said

‘And they lived Happily Ever After.’

But you do understand, don’t you,

That that would have been the end of the story.

Is that what you wanted—the end of the story?”

 

Someone asked, “Is the story over now?”

 

The Lord laughed. “It doesn’t seem to be.

Wherever two or more are gathered in my name

The conflict—the story—continues!

But that is not a bad thing, is it?

It fills up the universe, and our lives

Yours and mine

With joy and glory, companionship,

Fulfillment and love—yes,

It is true that part of it is also doubt

And hardship, pain and grief.”

 

A young woman stood up and said,

“Let me get this straight.

If there were peace on earth

And the brotherhood of man

Lived in right relations with each other—

Are you saying that would be the end of the world?

The end of the story?”

 

The Lord said,

“Yes. A story can’t continue if nothing happens.”

 

“So our choice is—live in conflict or not at all?”

 

The Lord said, “If you live, there will be conflict.”

 

“So what is the point,” came the plaintive cry

From somewhere within the great congregation.

“It seems like bad people advance the plot

Better than good people. You must really

Love the villains.”

 

“Oh, I do, I do,” the Lord said.

“I love them all. I love you all.

The point is—it is a story.

Be glad you were in it.

I’m glad you were in it.

“Oh, my questioning children—be at peace.

Your part of the story is over.

I thank you for the part you played

And for the indelible contribution

You made to the unfolding story of life on earth.”

The Lord raised his hands in benediction,

Turned and paused at the altar

And walked back down the center aisle

Through the quiet congregation

That was silent in his passing.

 

After he left the sanctuary

There was a brief pause before the murmuring began.

It grew louder and more insistent,

With cries of “It’s not fair!”

“He didn’t tell us anything!”

And, “I don’t believe any of it!”

 

And the Lord smiled,

Knowing that his will would be done in heaven

As surely as it was on earth.

 

MKM

June, 2014—after Annual Conference

Science

֎Scientific American printed an issue that introduces the reader to new advances related to humans. For example, a Japanese scientist has successfully raised mice using skin cells that were reengineered to be egg cells. Mixed with normal mouse sperm, healthy mice were born. In the near future Japanese scientists hope to resolve human egg cell issues with this technology.

The overall genetic technology related to this feat is the discovery that any cell can be turned into any other type cell by turning on certain genes and turning off others.

֎On the other end of the spectrum is creating faux humans from robots. Scientists fully expect to create robots with compassion, common sense, and reasoning identical to humans who may possess the same attributes. Today, scientists are experimenting with robots (AKA androids) that learn the same way children learn; already the sex toy industry is close to matching the Stepford Wives and Stepford Men as well.

֎Today, scientists can capture brain images. Whatever image is occurring in the brain can be captured and reproduced by a special machine connected to the scalp. Scientists proved the principle by showing a volunteer a picture of a face. The machine captured the same face from brain activity.

֎The Atlantic has an article questioning how the World will feed the middle class in the future (as soon as 2050). The common attitude is “science and technology will improve crops.” In fact, scientists have discovered that the biggest issue is affluence. As populations become successful, consumption increases algebraically compared to increases in population – the expected 25% increase in global population by 2050 will require a 100% increase in food production. On the negative side, fertilizers, insecticides and genetically modified organisms (GMO) have an increasingly destructive effect on the environment. In other words, farmers can’t produce much more than they do today. Further, many scientists have taken the position that arable land is too crowded, overused and, in fact, should be reduced to sustain a healthy ecology.

֎From Livescience.com: “A flip in Earth’s magnetic field may be brewing. And if it is, an electromagnetic blob deep under southern Africa is likely to be ground zero for the change.

New research using clays burned in cleansing rituals by Iron Age farmers finds that over the past 1,500 years, an electromagnetic anomaly in the Southern Hemisphere has waxed and waned, with the magnetic field in the region weakening and strengthening. This weirdness may presage a gradual reversal in the magnetic field, so that magnetic north moves to the South Pole and vice versa. (A flip-flop of this sort last occurred 780,000 years ago.)”

Besides sending geese and whales in odd directions, the real issue is radiation from the Sun. The Earth’s magnetic field deflects most of the radiation but during a flip of the poles, the magnetic field will be very weak and for a short time, will not exist. Unblocked solar radiation would be deadly to living things on Earth.

֎Global warming is all the rage right now but the planet has other patterns that may be interesting. Major ice ages last for about 100,000 years with a gap of about 10,000 years in between. It has been 12,000 years since the last ice age; are we heading toward another ice age in the next few centuries? What obscures predictions is man-made global warming, which has raised global temperatures in a century or two that otherwise would take a few thousand years.

The primary cause of major ice ages is the influence of Jupiter and Saturn. In certain configurations of their orbits, they tilt the Earth just a tiny bit – altering the declination of the Earth about 2°. Other causes include wavering radiation from the Sun.

CULTURAL FOOTNOTE

The mariner is truly perplexed that governments accept solutions to the issue of too many guns by agreeing with Donald, Florida legislators and the gun lobby that more guns are needed – in spite of a large majority of citizens disagreeing. Is there any better evidence that a democratic republic is a farce? Maybe things will be better when androids take over.

Ancient Mariner

 

On Being Lost

Have you ever been lost? It’s a sense that one has lost touch with the perimeter or edge that provides definition to a person’s situation. One feels adrift and even afraid because there is no meaningful ‘here’ or ‘there;’ there is no ‘over there.’ It is then that we realize how important it is to know where we’ve been, where we’re going, and where we are relative to our start and finish.

This sensation of being lost can be induced in many different situations. For example, trying to solve a puzzle with too many variables like the ones that offer “Jane is 4 years old; John is 12 years old and their brother is 20 years younger than Aunt Joy who is six years younger than their mother. . .” Another example is the experience that college freshmen have when trying to identify one’s proper role in a completely unknown environment. Sometimes the unknowns are so vast and complex, we don’t realize we’re lost!

That brings us to today’s example of being lost. Who is lost? The entire world of people is lost. The world’s cultures are eroding like sand blown by the desert wind. Mariner can provide indicators that suggest we don’t know where we are or where we’re going in the future:

֎ Authoritarian governments are increasing while democratic countries are decreasing. The imbalance has accelerated since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The latest example is China which voted only a day or two ago to grant President Xi Jinping the status of President for Life. Even old standbys like Turkey, Greece, and the Balkan nations are struggling and show signs of increasing authoritarianism. The map shows where authoritarianism has emerged (the orange and yellow states – apologies for the blurred image).

Since the early 1500’s the bluer nations have ruled the world. It is likely that blue rule will fade in the 2000’s. In its third iteration since the 1940’s, China has grown up economically and has improved culturally. It is so huge in national presence that it is likely to dominate world economy and culture much as the United States has since the 1800’s.

Typically, authoritarianism evolves in nations with failed economies or oligarchical cultures. In the case of China, a nation with an average ten percent growth for decades, it will become authoritarian. The question with China is whether one man’s vision will comprehend change well enough to sustain global leadership as the world changes dramatically over the next 50 years. While authoritarian governments can take charge of confusion more quickly than messy democracies, their weakness is the inability to manage cultural change.

֎ If authoritarianism is at one end of the spectrum, the United States (and the less influential Nordic States) is at the other end. Unfortunately, the founding fathers wanted a nation ruled by the people – no monarchy here – but also wanted government to control the economy and the military. Hence, a democratic republic; something like a duckbilled platypus. While touting democracy as the guiding force, the republic side has dominated society and is no better at managing culture than authoritarianism (current studies show that over time the voting public has influenced one percent of legislation while moneyed sources have influenced ninety-nine percent, which explains the growing problem of oligarchy and corporatism in the US since the 1850’s). It is the case with any government philosophy that a hot, expanding economy forgives many sins but the US economy isn’t ‘hot’ anymore.

The US culture has become ragged without good social leadership. As the 1990’s rolled into the 2000’s, fringe conservatism and shifting liberalism crumbled national unity. Further, every country in the world is exposed to lightning-speed changes in culture because of the Internet and Artificial Intelligence. Who knew the morning coffee-klatch would meet on Facebook?

Global economics is changing as well. Old natural resources, old technologies and old political liaisons are up in the air at the moment and do not fit the new world economy in a technology-led world.

֎ Technology has been a puzzle piece for decades. Remember when a generation quietly passed on as it handed the torch to the next generation? Now folks have to live through the next generation as well and maybe the one after that. Never mind that joblessness, financial security, really old parents and feelings of uselessness are left to you to manage. Does that obnoxious voice box in the living room (Alexa or Google Assistant) look like its growing arms and legs? Even today, it knows you’re pregnant before you do; be careful if it starts to rearrange your investments and insurance – it knows when it’s your time to go. If you thought your spouse nags all the time, wait until the voice box follows you around giving you advice about everything and, dangerously, not telling you things you should know. Further, lawyers beware; there are legal bots online that can provide legal services for any need a client may have including the forms to process the issue.

֎ The environment, the puzzle piece still run by the planet whether we acknowledge that or not, already has plans to change the weather, coastlines, atmosphere, food resources and the diversity of nature itself. Did you know that when the last great ice age melted it created the Great Lakes? The water level of the oceans rose 300 feet. Today, if you live on the seashore, a long term mortgage may not be a good idea. You may want to sell soon – just ask folks who live in Bali, Miami or New Orleans.

So – if Jane is 4 years old, China is the new global power, your great-great grandparents live in the basement, you meet for coffee on Facebook, your job is gone or your boss is a nagging robot, giraffes and tigers are gone, the ocean creeps under the door twice each day, where are we going?

Ancient Mariner