Snips

 

Here’s a quote from Albert Einstein:

“A human being is part of the whole called by us “Universe”; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to enhance all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

– – – –

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

Politico.com, a reputable news source, researched Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt. Politico found a series of tapes, “KFAQ University — Standing Up For What’s Right.” Produced in 2005 and posted on Pruitt’s campaign website in 2010, they offer a frightening view of Pruitt’s irrational and conservative view of religion, science, business and politics. A couple of his statements are below. If one enjoys horror entertainment, listen to the tapes at: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/03/02/scott-pruitt-epa-evolution-theory-abortion-gay-marriage-433284?lo=ap_d1

1-Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt dismissed evolution as an unproven theory, lamented that “minority religions” were pushing Christianity out of “the public square” and advocated amending the Constitution to ban abortion, prohibit same-sex marriage and protect the Pledge of Allegiance and the Ten Commandments.

2-Pruitt also described the Second Amendment as divinely granted and condemned federal judges as a “judicial monarchy” that is “the most grievous threat that we have today.”

3-“There aren’t sufficient scientific facts to establish the theory of evolution, and it deals with the origins of man, which is more from a philosophical standpoint than a scientific standpoint.”

– – – –

The Grace of Wealth

While the world ponders the future because China can clone Macaque monkeys, Barbra Streisand matter of factly clones her pet dog into two identical offspring – no big deal except it cost $50,000 per dog. Sort of goes hand in hand with Oprah’s bathtub carved out of a single block of limestone that cost $70,000. Mariner blew $350 on a new miter saw last year. Ahh, the life of the idle rich. . .

– – – –

All things considered, mariner opts for Albert. It should be extremely disturbing to us when we watch the agony and death of people living in war zones, the wretched life of starving families, the unnecessary death of millions from lack of common immunizations, the horrific destruction of life by selfish autocrats – while the overly wealthy look for new heights in lavish, wasteful spending. Fixing this imbalance in human life is virtually impossible. When push comes to shove, oligarchs clone their government representatives.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

One is the Magic Number

Mariner has been pondering what magic word will lead to a successful campaign for candidates in November 2008. What came to mind quite intuitively is the refrain from John Lennon’s song Imagine:

 You may say that I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will live as one

 The song is a spiritual appeal for everyone around the world to diminish the importance of worldly possessions and the abuses of imbalance and separation and make the most important issue oneness – even above religious and economic interests. Being one is the supreme value of existence.

Imagine is a lovely, romantic song both lyrically and musically. However, in the practical world of US politics there is no oneness. No oneness of nation; no oneness of culture; no oneness of citizenry; no oneness of economy; no oneness of responsibility; no oneness of sharing a common life together. The spoken phrase “I am an American” was almost surreal in the twentieth Century but since has begun to plummet rapidly in value.

There is no single definition that covers all US citizens. The population is a collection of splintered priorities every one of which is more important than national identity. We can no longer say, quite literally, “One nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” We can’t even claim to be a nation under ‘God’ – an implication that there is one supreme spirit, however defined. Abortion, race, sexuality, fundamentalism, Islam among many other issues are more important than the holistic virtues of associating with a supreme being.

The unfairness and violence alluded to in ‘Imagine’ runs rampant in the American culture. The absence of oneness and unity in many sectors of life are why we have a virtual antichrist as President. It is why we have dysfunctional governments across the nation. It is why other nations are looking elsewhere for leadership. It is why Putin can so easily disrupt our democratic ideals. In sailor terms, the boat has no ballast – any wave can topple the boat.

The cure to our ailments, nationally and internationally, is to restore the ballast we had in the last century. Oneness. Unity. Togetherness. Cultural responsibility. One is the magic word. If a candidate can engage the electorate in the joy of oneness, that candidate will win by a landslide. It isn’t “Make America Great Again,” it is “Make America One Again.”

Ancient Mariner

 

The Apocalypse is Nigh

Mariner often has touted the joy of being married to a professional librarian, serious poet, and bibliophile of the first order. Yet again, reading through the many books by her bedside, his wife came across this amazing likeness in C.S. Lewis’s book, “The Problem of Pain”, published in 1940. The quote below is found in the chapter on hell:

“. . . . Picture to yourself a man who has risen to wealth or power by a continued course of treachery and cruelty, by exploiting for purely selfish ends the noble motions of his victims, laughing the while at their simplicity; who, having thus attained success, uses it for the gratification of lust and hatred and finally parts with the last rag of honor among thieves by betraying his own accomplices and jeering at their last moments of bewildered disillusionment. Suppose further, that he does all this, not (as we like to imagine) tormented by remorse or even misgiving, but eating like a schoolboy and sleeping like a healthy infant – a jolly ruddy-cheeked man, without a care in the world, unshakably confident to the very end that he alone has found the answer to the riddle of life, that God and man are fools whom he has got the better of, that his way of life is utterly successful, satisfactory, unassailable. . . .

“. . . . Even mercy can hardly wish to such a man his eternal, contented continuance in such ghastly illusion.”

– – – –

In Apostle Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, he describes the antichrist:

“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.” [Thessalonians 2]

Is who we think we’re talking about the antichrist? Is his base the nonbelievers deceived by his message? He is eager to use nuclear war. Is the Apocalypse nigh?

“And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the Earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The Sun shall be turned into darkness,  and the Moon into blood, before the coming great and awesome Day of the Lord, and it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the Name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Joel 2:30-32)

Ancient Mariner

How to Make Order from Chaos

Mariner is not, what is the term – a neatnik. His home office is a replica of the human presence on Planet Earth. The office is a clutter sanctuary, a habitat of overgrown functions that dysfunction – lost in the mire of mismanagement, a Paleolithic collection of useless junk. Mariner decided in a godlike manner to restore order and spiritual beauty to his office. It is time for Armageddon.

Mariner discovered immediately that one must indeed have the power of God to restore functional and productive order to human disorder. God uses water and fire which seems excessive for this task. Mariner has no choice but to wade into the matter in the likeness of Jason and his Argonauts.

The home office is no 10 Downing Street. It is a 12×12 room beside the front door entry. The room has a 5×2 closet with a separate 2-foot storage area above which meets the ceiling. Someone in the past put shelves in the closet; it behooves mariner to say they had no sense of functionality. The closet has two sliding doors which means easy access is only at each end. Unfortunately, there are no shelves at each end – only in the middle behind the doors. This situation has led to intense jury rigging while storing supplies – certainly a contributing factor to the immense disorder at hand.

One immediately sees lying about the office towers of 8½ by 11 paper as tall as they will stay balanced. The reader will be entertained that the resident filing cabinet is half empty – suffering long ago from a failed filing system. An overgrown potted spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) contributes to the mayhem. Overstuffed oak bookcases dominate the walls. Any remaining wall space is filled with sailing charts, photographs of sailing trips and other memorabilia from the past (Why is an eight-foot boat hook leaning in the corner?). A small corner desk with a glass surface holds the computer and its paraphernalia.

Today, the closet has been cleared of everything, shelves and all. This means there is only a foot path from the door to the closet – a mere goat path among the hills. It is time to reorder things. What would God do? Mariner questions God’s judgment when God flooded the Earth but did not oversee reconstruction. Had God dealt with our home offices, perhaps the world of humans would be a more orderly place.

Ancient Mariner

Rajneesh

Mariner was a Methodist pastor during the 1960’s. He was interested in philosophical direction at the time; it was indeed a time of crossroads in contemporary thoughts about secularism, socialism, capitalism, theism, and the role in general of belief systems in modern society. For a college theology assignment, mariner researched an Indian philosopher named, for short, Rajneesh.

Rajneesh was sort of a rebel religious philosopher in India espousing normal Indian mysticism and spiritualism but Rajneesh injected a thread of spiritual humanism that made him known in the western world as well. Mariner has not thought of Rajneesh since his college days. Rajneesh is brought to mind by an article in this week’s New Yorker email.

The most efficient analysis of his approach to spiritualism is to examine his effort to write his own ten commandments (very much a restrictive western gesture). Bless Wikipedia for having Rajneesh’s ten commandments clearly presented!

1.Never obey anyone’s command unless it is coming from within you also.

2.There is no God other than life itself.

3.Truth is within you, do not search for it elsewhere.

4.Love is prayer.

5.To become a nothingness is the door to truth. Nothingness itself is the means, the goal and attainment.

6.Life is now and here.

7.Live wakefully.

8.Do not swim—float.

9.Die each moment so that you can be new each moment.

10.Do not search. That which is, is. Stop and see.

Bring a copy of the commandments to your next Sunday School class for discussion. Mariner guarantees there will be discussion. Certain commandments, particularly 5, 8, 9 and 10, can raise the blood pressure of western capitalists; socialists struggle with 3, 5 and 6; theists are stopped by 1, 2, 3 and 6; western society in general finds 5 an anathema.

Mariner gleaned many sermons from Rajneesh by integrating his spiritual elements with western pragmatism.

Being a bit older, mariner has in his mental library many forgotten moments to discover again. Welcome back, Rajneesh.

Ancient Mariner

 

Immigration is not a one-thought issue

The growing proportion of older adults throughout Europe, many parts of Asia (particularly Japan, South Korea and China) and North America are outpacing the population of young people. This gray population explosion is due, in part, to extended longevity, but also due to dramatic declines in fertility – the number of children per female. Fertility rates in many nations are well below the necessary level of 2.1 children per female to simply maintain the population. For example, Australia and Brazil share a fertility rate of 1.7 children per female, China has dropped to 1.6, Japan and Germany are at 1.4, and even the relatively young United States is at 1.87. In short, the world’s most industrialized nations as well as many of the planet’s developing economies are witnessing an unprecedented drop in the number of children. While fewer children presents a number of social questions such as the availability of a robust workforce and general economic growth – the birth dearth also portends a troubling future of caring for an aging society.[1]

Mariner has come across a number of websites and magazine articles that have raised the issue of imbalanced demographics. It is proven and certainly true across the industrialized world. Which leads to mariner’s puzzlement as to why the United States – especially Congress and the President – seem so determined to prevent immigration. The truth is the US needs young people even if they aren’t white Christians. The President brags about the unemployment rate being low; this is due to two phenomena: (1) good jobs are disappearing and workers are taking jobs at a fraction of their former salary, which removes them from the unemployment number (2) the US is running out of workers.

The American workforce is in a downward spiral. Many politicians tout retraining the US workforce but no plan and no funding are available. Further, the public education system has been financially starved for generations and requires immense intellectual and financial improvement to even be able to address the issue.

Perhaps some time in the future under the guidance of a different President and a different Congress, we may properly address the issue of immigration, job readiness, and education.

Today’s Congress is too busy garnering personal wealth. Today’s President is incompetent.

Ancient Mariner

[1] http://bigthink.com/disruptive-demographics/will-robots-replace-our-children

The Arrested Donald and other Important Matters

Mariner has been overwhelmed by the presence of Donald in a twenty-first century Presidency. Mariner hasn’t said much this past year other than a few asides in the midst of other topics. It has become blatantly obvious as Donald’s term runs past a year in office, that Donald has two dysfunctional attributes: Donald is a victim of arrested development. Donald has developed a narcissistic personality.

Mariner isn’t sure what causes arrested development, whether its nature or nurture or both. (Some breeds of dogs are deliberately bred not to ever mature) In any case, its mariner’s opinion that Donald stopped developing around the age of eight. An eight year old is familiar with few policies other than loyalty and deflecting blame. If those readers who are parents can think back to when their child was eight years old, the child’s vocabulary and sentence structure, the simplistic view of behavior, the inappropriate bravado, the shortsighted reasoning, the dependence on fantasy, one will realize Donald is an eight year old.

It is unfortunate that Donald was raised in an intensely strict family. From birth his behavior was irregular; flaunting his prowess by bullying, challenging rules of behavior and, like his father, using belittlement as a weapon, Donald was a problem child from birth. At thirteen, Donald was expelled from his family by the father, sending Donald to a military school where discipline was harsh.

The father was obsessed with winning. If a child didn’t win, the child was belittled. How does a small child survive in this destructive situation? Become narcissistic. Regardless of reality, regardless of the father’s derision, regardless of growing difficulty in social situations, Donald saw himself as a successful child and always a winner. Being narcissistic, Donald easily can assume that Donald and winning is the same thing. He truly believes in his own mind that bad news and lack of performance are the fault of someone else – fantasy is a handy tool provided by being eight years old. Defaming and belittling others is a defense mechanism typical of an eight year old.

The simplistic ethical structure of an eight year old combined with the absence of empathy in narcissism, yields one Donald Trump. Donald has been and will continue to be destructive. It is difficult to imagine Donald’s motivations for his behavior. His motivations are far simpler than normal adults would imagine; pundits, journalists and the press in general fall into this trap: overthinking Donald. Donald’s ‘loyalty’ to Russia and all that entails, likely is based on the simple idea that his election may be overturned if it is proven that Russia hacked the election. Otherwise, following the money and uncovering shady business deals reveals Donald’s normal environment – he is a member of the oligarchy run from Russia preying on most of the old USSR. Donald wants the sanctions lifted for the same reason Putin does – sleazy profits.

– – – –

Nevertheless and regardless and to any length – Donald will cause damage to the intellectual force of the United States. But Donald is not the real danger. The real danger is Congress – and by default the Republican Party. Due process, mediation of any kind, civic mindedness – all have disappeared even before Donald came on the scene. Adding Donald to the selfish whims of the GOP has exposed the party for the self-righteous, money-driven, and fragmented entity it has become. Several of mariner’s more thoughtful resources have gone so far as to call for dissolving Congress, holding a special election for every seat in both houses. An article in The Atlantic makes an uncharacteristic plea to the electorate: do not vote for a republican!

A sound, public minded Republican Party would have squeezed Donald out of election politics when he provoked birtherism. Racism always has been an Achilles heel for republicans but using racist remarks on the campaign trail is not helpful in winning a majority of voters. Additionally, a struggling right wing of the party has been able to bring the Republican-held House to a standstill. With audacity, Congressional leaders (Republican) turn to the democrats seeking votes for legislation antithetical to democrats.

Who can fix Russian intervention in US elections? Congress.

Who can fix gerrymandering? Congress.

Who can eliminate cash-driven elections? Congress.

Who can remove lobbyist control of legislation? Congress.

Who can assist transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy? Congress.

Who can regulate banks and Wall Street to play fair? Congress.

Who can mediate international politics? Congress.

Well, perhaps not.

Ancient Mariner

 

Public Education – a Look at the Battleground

Since the founding of the United States, public education always has been an orphan child amid governments and private institutions. Government budgets grudgingly admit there is a national responsibility to assure the nation is prepared for the society at hand. But budgeting falls far short of what educationists call a sustained philosophy of education. Symptoms are both conceptual and budgetary. Teachers are grossly underpaid in terms of their influence on children, on the need for sophisticated communication skills, on the required level of contemporary, continuing education, on resources, and in perspective, their role in sustaining an aggressive, competitive, and culturally mature nation. School architecture, forever looking like factories and prisons, confirms the disregard for investment, vision, invention, and genuine interest in the progress and importance of public education.

The private sector lauds its success in creating exemplary educational institutions similar to Ivy League private schools, which cater to more elite and proven achievers and tout fiscal success dependent on massive endowments and trusts – but disown the problem laden responsibilities facing the US population in general. In secondary schools, gerrymandering is as prevalent as it is in election precincts. Private and special curriculum secondary school boards work constantly to avoid being accountable for ‘public’ education by drawing school districts every bit as skewed as voting districts and, in typical fashion in an election, making application to be a student as difficult as possible.

The concept of ‘for profit’ schools, that is, a private firm contracts with the government to set curricula, set the budget, and do this with the aim of pocketing profit at the end must, by the very nature of the model, compromise student learning in deference to profit. That the ‘for profit’ model survives speaks to the indifference of legislators when setting public education budgets.

An emerging member on the education battleground is the corporation. Corporations have no choice but to have access to socially adapted and specially educated employees. In light of the indifference by government and private interest, corporations have no choice but to develop proprietary education programs. Just as with other players engaged in education, corporations feel no accountability for public education beyond corporate need.

The truth of the matter, at least in the United States, is no one wants to tackle the complexities of public education that must be resolved to elevate education to its functionally deserved station in society.

– – – –

There is another issue that will be present on the coming battleground: curriculum. Cathy Davidson, a leading voice in education, writes in “The New Education,” that the current model consisting of age-based grades, segregated subjects, trivia tests and student ranking, was created in 1853 when new accounting techniques were popular and everything suffered from intensive listing, pricing and product value – a movement related to a new economics called capitalism. Davidson complains, “That was 165 years ago. Things have changed.” Her book focuses on college education and suggests in the future four-year colleges may teach more like community colleges – especially trade instruction that puts together in a unified package “everything a student may need” to find a career.

The packaged curriculum has been utilized in singular institutions similar to Montessori and classless instruction in secondary schools, and in some community colleges. More specialized college curricula are emerging. Saint John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland has a curriculum based solely on reading a collection of classic books; Saint John students rank at the top in post graduate studies in subsequent institutions – including science and engineering.

Needless to say, the Internet stands alone as the primary cause for changing curricula. In the 1970’s mariner took a class in one of IBM’s education centers – then considered to be leading edge education for how to utilize computers in business. An instructor, whose name is long forgotten, said what’s different today (1970’s) is that information is free and fully available. Everyone has immediate access to all information. Just because you know a lot of detail isn’t the measure of worthiness – it’s how you apply the information that counts. That insight was known in the 1970’s and should have changed education methods then. But how does one rank students based on subjective application rather than process memorization? Is rank based on trivia testing passé?

– – – –

What deters anyone from wanting to solve the public education issue is its sociological quagmire. The old adage about leading a horse to water but not being able to make it drink looms large in the subject of education. Student motivation is not a constant. Further, everything from religion to job opportunity to distracting expectations to family circumstances brings rules, exceptions, disagreements, and specific mandates to the classroom. Public education does not have the advantage of discriminatory student selection; public education cannot recognize financial status; public education does not generate capital gains for public education. Yet, public education must deliver millions of children and adults to the cultural marketplace prepared for success.

Everyone knows the world lives on the cusp of the largest shift in culture in all of human history. The definition of virtually everything is unravelling on a day-to-day basis. Cultural stability will depend on being prepared to comprehend and participate in a montage of unknown values. At the moment, the education industry does not prepare the common citizen for survival. Society hangs in the balance.

The battleground lies ready for a skirmish.

Ancient Mariner

Matters of Preponderance

Mariner receives from a relative each year at Christmas a calendar with daily sayings. The theme tends to be ethereal, whimsical, transcendental and often profound. Mariner confesses most sayings leave him puzzled or blank in reaction. Still, there are many that provoke obscure thought.

For the weekend, February 3 and 4, two sayings were offered:

“I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being”

– Wislawa Szymborska. (Maria Wisława Anna Szymborska was a Polish poet, essayist, translator and recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature.)

“If we don’t turn around now, we just may get where we’re going”

– Native American saying.

Both sayings piqued mariner’s curiosity. The two are as far apart as one can imagine. The first truly is profound and runs amok in the Cosmos while the other is pragmatic, skeptical and of the moment.

Examining the second saying first, the Native American saying, mariner is reminded of the current advertisement on television showing a rookery of penguins marching across the endless miles of Antarctic ice sheets back to their nesting area. Two penguins, however, are using a GPS device to find their way and seem to have taken a different path. Finally, the penguins reset their destination and are advised that they will arrive in 92 days.

Similarly, mariner often tells a story in his sermons about the housewife who, when baking a whole ham, would always cut away a significant portion before baking the ham. Her daughter asked, “Why do you cut off the end?” “Oh,” her mother said, “that’s how Grandma always does it.” Later, when the mother and daughter were visiting Grandma, the daughter took the opportunity to ask Grandma why she cut the ham: “Because the pan is too small,” Grandma replied.

Ingrained habit has its dark side. Mariner’s grandmother, a feisty German immigrant, would reject an individual with great ire if they suggested a better way to do a habitual task. It is human nature to allocate as much thoughtless behavior as possible to the deep reaches of the basal ganglia – a part of the brain that runs habitual behavior without need for logic or reconsideration. One has many, many gestures and emotional reactions that are thoughtlessly launched from the basal ganglia. Does one follow an instruction list when using the toilet? Virtually every gesture is thoughtless and automatic. To prove it, try wiping yourself with the opposite hand; raise that zipper with the opposite hand. Disrupt enough habitual gestures and a person will find themselves lost as to what to do next. Like the penguins, which relied too long on the automatic nature of their GPS without considering reality, they got where they were going because they didn’t turn around.

The heart of the matter is that long held emotions and attitudes also reside in the basal ganglia and are launched thoughtlessly. Consider any prejudice – take racism or class rejection or personal arrogance; like the housewife cutting the ham, reason is not in play. In fact, one would be unable to leave the house to go to work except that the majority of emotions, gestures and opinions are automatically deployed. At least a person has space in their frontal cortex to solve Sudoku. Evaluate your habits once in a while or you may get where you’re going.

– – – –

The first saying, about a reason for existence, defies thinking about functional values as reasons to exist. This is not an exercise solved with an instruction list. Wislawa’s wish is more in despair than it is in pursuit of obscure philosophical speculation. One hears loss and waste in her words.

The twenty-first century has started with unimaginable confusion in a time when everything we know about the Earth and the life living on that Earth is under stress – both physically and existentially. To twist a trite commercial saying, this is not your father’s world; it may not even be the father’s world mentioned in the Christian hymnal. Whatever reason existence has to exist, it blessed Wislawa by calling her home in 2012 – before Donald.

Ancient Mariner

 

To Every Thing There is a Season

Mariner opened his email account to read new mail. He opened the New Yorker email to find a sad, poetic article by David Remnick. It is about the slow decline of football. Mariner played football from the age of eleven to twenty-nine in recreation leagues, high school, college and semi-pro. It was and still is an important emotional base in his life. Older men regret loss of the capability or right to have sex, smoke cigars, drink bourbon, lift very heavy objects and climb ladders . . . mariner, too, suffers these absences and further he regrets that never again will he play football.

Yet, the truth is out; football can and usually does cause C.T.E. (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). A long list of mental inabilities is included in CTE, most of them end in death. Parents are asking the same question posed about boxing decades ago only this time it’s about football: Do you want your kids to play football?

It is a kind eulogy, like petting a dying dog gently on the head. Mariner recommends the pleasure of reading David’s article. See:

 https://www.newyorker.com/news/sporting-scene/footballs-long-eclipse?mbid=nl_Daily%20020318%20Control&CNDID=49421095&spMailingID=12871100&spUserID=MTg3Njg2NDM4MTg0S0&spJobID=1340252035&spReportId=MTM0MDI1MjAzNQS2

Ancient Mariner