Advocacy, a Home Activity

Today’s post is a reprint from June 14, 2015. Mariner rarely if ever has republished; a reader can always browse the categories. This post was the first in a twelve part series of posts about individual advocacy, how advocacy is an ingredient in a satisfying life and a means of bringing order to that life. He feels the subject of personal advocacy provides a healing salve for the turbulent times everyone experiences today. The series deals with the relationship between mankind and his environment, treatment of animals and pets, how he should eat, and what can a person do at home that promotes order and personal meaning.

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Standing in the Penumbra of Advocacy at Home

Penumbra is the word of the day. The mariner doubts it will be replaced by “get” or “got.” The general meaning is to stand in the shadow of something. More than just a shadow, it alludes to a shadow that doesn’t have an edge like a person’s shadow or the shadow of a building. An example may be an eclipse or, on a sunny day, standing beneath an altocumulus cloud – high enough that its shadow line is diffused by the time it reaches the ground.

The mariner will confess that penumbra is not one of his usual words. He doubts there are very few except scientists who need a word like penumbra. It is a word the mariner remembers from something he read long ago; it comes to mind whenever the word “eclipse” is mentioned.

It is the appropriate word for our thoughts about the Advocacy at Home (AH) series of posts. AH sets an advocated form of behavior; it sets standards for that behavior. AH is, in fact, a law book. It is a law book without an end.

There is no line between advocacy and no advocacy. We may have a lifestyle that involves low grade advocacy, that is, taking note of an issue and having an opinion, and then have something else catch our attention. We may have strong feelings about a subject, idea, or activity and may physically react in some way to counter the situation. But there always is advocacy; else, prejudice and accomplishment would not exist.

The mariner looks back at the brutality and stupidity of Homo sapiens referenced in AH. Humans are no different than any other animal except humans are capable of malice aforethought, destroying just to destroy, or destroying because it is easier than assuring optimum or fair conclusions. Defenders of this characteristic claim it is done in the name of progress – akin to Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest.’ Progress for whom? Perhaps not progress for humans. Malice aforethought is part genetic and part sociopathic.

Referenced in the post, Po Pouree, from letters to the editor in Scientific American, Robert E Marx responded to an article about why Neandertals became extinct (apologies for repetition of earlier posts):

“Kate Wong’s suppositions about what brought about Neandertals’ extinction in “Neandertal Minds” are contrary to the known history of anatomically modern Homo sapiens [that is, us]. Her assertions that Neandertals were just out competed and that the 1.5 to 2.1 percent Neandertal DNA within people outside of Africa is the result of occasional “dalliances” would be historically unlikely.

The most likely scenario would involve waves of immigrating anatomically modern humans taking over land and causing death by plunder and disease, as Europeans discovering the New World did. And it would be naïve to think that our Neandertal DNA was the result of consensual dalliances when rape went hand in hand with pillage of every other civilization.”

From Walt Kelly’s comic strip, Pogo, April 22, 1970.

Putting aside our treatment of other species, consider how we treat human beings – our own species.

John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834-1902). The historian and moralist, otherwise known simply as Lord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

The letter was written at the end of the Victorian era when the Edwardian era was emerging and which peaked during the years of 1901 – 1910, then slowly disappearing as the First World War drew near. That was a time very similar to the United States today: a very few were incredibly wealthy and the rest of Great Britain was in a crisis.

Is it true that if the reader or the mariner were given absolute power, we would be “bad men?” At the least, would we be immoral? Would our arrogance and indifference be obvious? Vladimir Putin has absolute power. Would he be less immoral if he had no power? Assume we had absolute power over one person. Would we abuse that person? Would we, in a twisted desire for absolute power be like Phillip Garrido, who kidnapped and kept Jaycee Dugard in a backyard shed for 18 years and had two children by her? Famous studies of power over another person show that, indeed, immoral if not violent behavior will occur.

What is it about power that is so destructive?

The oldest reference to rule by law was written by the reformist King Urukagina of city-state Lagash in Mesopotamia during the 24th century BC. It consisted of a list of rules that were generally beneficial to the very poor and the labor class. The rich were curtailed in their abuses by what the mariner calls “Clintonesque restraints,” that is, in exchange for paying silver to their laborers, one could have 1,500 sheep instead of 500. Good people die young – King Urukagina was overthrown seven years later by his neighbor city-state Urek.

The reader would think, after 4,600 years, humans would have mastered the three elements of ruling by law. The three elements are power, intervention of power, and individuals. If intervention or individuals weren’t present, who would need rule of law? Perhaps the less powerful would lust after those who may be more powerful. Intervention would become battles between powerful people and individuals would become a commodity like chickens. Isn’t that called the Dark Ages (500 – 1100 AD)?

The reason for this run around Robin Hood’s barn is to highlight the similarities between AH and rule by law. We must be firm, committed and assertive in our AH laws. It is the only way to fix our dysfunctional nation.

Earlier it was mentioned that there were three elements to rule by law: power, intervention of power, and individuals. The dysfunction in the US is that it is the powerful that write the rules for intervention of power. Individuals are out of the loop. So AH is a beginning. The more individuals that create their AH rule books and enforce them, the sooner individuals may take their place in the triumvirate known as rule of law.

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To read other parts of the advocacy series type ‘advocacy’ in the search box on the Home Page.

Ancient Mariner

The Right Spirit

A bit of thrust and parry about abolishing the Senate. The idea is emerging in magazines, books and even television commentary. Mariner again will proffer why the Senate distorts public discourse – an example taken from John Dingell’s book:

California has a population of sixty million people. The bottom twenty states in population together have less people than California. Yet, those twenty states have forty senators while California has two.

This imbalance in Senate representation echoes throughout many national policies, civil rights, and contemporary issues requiring, to be fair, a national perspective larger than the constraint caused by a minority of US citizens. Most political thinkers attribute the rise of identity politics to the ability of a few Senators representing a significantly small population to block healthy, rational compromise.

The Senate’s cousin, the Electoral College, twice in recent times has elected a president who lost the popular vote.

What forces this issue to the front is the massive changes in government, economy, civil rights, technology and class discrimination that are upon us. Compared to our cultural and economic stress, the Luddites had it easy.

Turmoil among rank and file citizenry has been growing since the riots at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968 – just to name a contemporary starting point.

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Ahem. Allow mariner to straighten his tie, comb his hairs, and change the subject to one of cultural cure: It is the holiday season. For all cultural segments and religions participating in this most uplifting time of year, mariner steals lyrics yet again.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Let your heart be light

From now on our troubles will be out of sight.

 

Ancient Mariner

 

2018 Observations

    Speak to a member of Donald’s base and they will say “Donald is doing exactly what we want him to do.” The populist base wanted a grenade thrown at the Establishment. It did explode and has upset the status quo to a great extent – especially in Cabinet policy. In fact, the grenade exploded so strongly that it exposed the GOP for what it is: Republican Senators living foremost for selfish reasons; Senators holding on to Reagan economics which don’t work in today’s international economy; GOP Senators are conservative tribalists rather than national statesmen. Could a blue wave wash over the Senate in 2020? Mariner believes a few new democrats may make it but not enough to overturn the GOP majority. The Senate doesn’t work correctly in today’s Government consisting of 50 states, 350 million citizens and a modern computerized society. Mariner’s observation is to abolish the Senate completely or at a minimum combine the two houses thereby making every representative subject to proportional representation. And toss out the Electoral College while we’re messing with the Constitution.

   January 2018 had bouncy temperatures ranging from below zero to days in the sixties in the Southeastern part of Iowa. El Nino is forming in the Pacific; it appears the winter jetstream will offer slightly warmer weather in January 2019 than we had last year. If one lives in the Carolinas or New England, the same jetstream won’t be so nice with increased rain, snow and energetic storms. It is a fact that one cannot predict climate change with weather forecasts over a short time. However, mariner agrees with the observation of scientists who study the Earth in geologic terms: the climate change thing already is out of the bag and will have its way with us. Even if the international community meets the requirements of the Paris agreement, the Earth is a big place and large, slow moving planetary phenomena have too much momentum for us to steer. The main worry is what will rising seas, floods and droughts do to our economy?

   According to a Senate Intelligence Committee report, Instagram “was a significant front” in Russian election meddling, eclipsing even Facebook itself. Between 2015 and 2018, there were 187 million interactions with Instagram content from the Internet Research Agency, the Russian trolling operation, compared with 77 million interactions on Facebook and 73 million on Twitter. [Bloomberg]

A popular quote is in frequent use at the moment. The quote is Ben Franklin’s response to a woman’s question about what the founders had delivered: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

A democratic republic requires constant maintenance by its citizens. This means that managing our government at Federal, State and Local levels is a necessary chore that we must continually exercise by voting (but today only 47 percent vote), attending town hall meetings and other events that provide access to our representatives, participating in political causes and party affiliations (only 12 percent of citizens participate even minimally in civic activities). This is sophisticated stuff that requires an educated understanding of citizen responsibilities (civics is not taught in public schools).

It is mariner’s observation that US citizens duck responsibility and blame Russian influence on the Russians. There’s nothing stopping any citizen from taking ownership of their democratic republic at a cultural level and at a political level. Stop blaming others a la Donald and step up to ownership of a nation. If we Americans did that, the Russian issue wouldn’t exist.

Ancient Mariner

 

Bowling and Politics

In this post mariner promotes two books. The first one is a sociological view of American behavior particularly as it relates to how Americans have changed how they socialize. The second is by a memorable US Representative from Michigan, John Dingell, who was an active liberal during his tenure – the longest of any Representative serving from 1955 to 2015.

֎ Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam, 2001, Simon and Schuster

The premise is that Americans have, as a total population, withdrawn from community activities and civic life. The popularity of TV reflects people’s desire to wind down and relax in a setting over which they have total control. Many people may feel that socializing with neighbors is taxing, while TV is in one’s home and it’s always available. The national average across all segments of the population is eight hours per day.

Add to TV the phenomenon of smartphones. Mariner has noted in past posts how the smartphone eliminates extended or serious conversations in family life. Children aren’t admonished for using the smartphone too much because the parents are busy using the smartphone too much. A Silicon Valley executive once admitted he requires all electronics to be left by the door when family members return home. Just like in the Wild West days when guns were left at the door – will both harm us?

Another distraction to interactive human life is social media. Why visit family when one can pretend to visit on Facebook?

“Putnam contends that participation in collective activities such as bowling leagues and other leisure, faith and political associations, fosters norms of reciprocity through which people develop an orientation to cooperate with and trust others. Surveys have consistently shown that members of associations tend to trust others and have more friends in the neighborhood than non-members. Such norms and networks of civic engagement constitute what sociologists have called ‘social capital’. Drawing on theoretical insights developed in his previous book Making Democracy Work, Putnam argues that social capital is important because the high levels of trust and cooperation that characterize socially and civically engaged communities are positively associated with the performance of social institutions, economic prosperity, and individuals’ wellbeing and longevity.”[ResearchGate]

Since the 1960s Americans increasingly have moved to socially and ethnically homogeneous, car-dependent suburban areas. Obviously this arrangement limits open, public discourse on matters of the day with others who may be from different social situations. This neighborhood isolation leads to false assumptions that are counterintuitive to democratic concepts, for example, “NIMBY” – not in my backyard!

֎ The Dean – The Best Seat in the House, John Dingell, 2018, HarperCollins.

John Dingell always has been known for calling a spade a spade. Speaking to the terrible shape our nation is in:

“There are many reasons for this dramatic decline: the Vietnam War, Watergate, Ronald Reagan’s folksy but popular message that government was not here to help, the Iraq War, and worst of all by far, the Trumpist mind-set. These jackasses who see “deep state” conspiracies in every part of government are a minority of a minority, yet they are now the weakest link in the chain of more than three centuries of our American republic. Ben Franklin was right. The Founders gave us a precious but fragile gift. If we do not protect it with constant vigilance, we will most certainly lose it.”

How does John suggest we restore our political ethos?

“An electoral system based on full participation. At age 18, you are automatically registered to vote. No photo ID, no residency tests, no impediments of any kind. Advances in technology can make this happen effortlessly. Yes, voting should be restricted only to American citizens. Strict protections against foreign meddling are also necessary.”

Further:

“The elimination of money in campaigns. Period. Elections, like military service—each is an example of duty, honor, and service to country—should be publicly funded. Can you imagine if we needed to rely on wealthy donors to fund the military? I know there are those who genuinely believe in privatizing everything. They are called profiteers.”

Restructuring the Federal branches of government:

“The end of minority rule in our legislative and executive branches. The Great Compromise, as it was called when it was adopted by the Constitution’s Framers, required that all states, big and small, have two senators. The idea that Rhode Island needed two U.S. senators to protect itself from being bullied by Massachusetts emerged under a system that governed only 4 million Americans.”

“Today, in a nation of more than 325 million and 37 additional states, not only is that structure antiquated, it’s downright dangerous. California has almost 40 million people, while the 20 smallest states have a combined population totaling less than that. Yet because of an 18th-century political deal, those 20 states have 40 senators, while California has just two. These sparsely populated, usually conservative states can block legislation supported by a majority of the American people. That’s just plain crazy.”

“With my own eyes, I’ve watched in horror and increasing anger as that imbalance in power has become the primary cause of our national legislative paralysis. In primaries, the vocal rump of a minority of obnoxious asses can hold the entire country hostage to extremist views. This insanity has sent true public servants fleeing for the exits. The Electoral College has the same structural flaw. Along with 337 of my colleagues, I voted in 1969 to amend the Constitution to abolish it. Twice in the past 18 years, we’ve seen the loser of the popular vote become president through the Electoral College formula, which gives that same disproportionate weight to small states, each of which gets two automatic votes for its two senators.”

There is a solution, however, that could gain immediate popular support: Abolish the Senate. At a minimum, combine the two chambers into one, and the problem will be solved. It will take a national movement, starting at the grassroots level, and will require massive organizing, strategic voting, and strong leadership over the course of a generation. But it has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? “Abolish the Senate.” I’m having blue caps printed up with that slogan right now. They will be made in America.

If mariner were motivated to write a book, he would not need to – John wrote it for him.

Ancient Mariner

Merger of CVS and Aetna

In what was a disturbing interview on PBS NewsHour between Judy Woodruff and Larry Merlo (CVS CEO), Judy pressed Merlo several times about how the merger will benefit individuals. Continually, Merlo ducked that specific question by advocating better procedures, better integration of services and a number of platitudes all of which reflect a larger corporate-driven control of market, profits by collusion and most disturbingly, the point Merlo ducked, was quality control of corporate costs by managing patients directly.

This is an article/video that is very important for the reader to read/watch. It speaks clearly to the control factor that large data clouds and massive records of daily life are being integrated for corporate benefit, not for personal benefit. Go to:

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/what-the-cvs-aetna-merger-could-mean-for-you

The reader may recall a recent post in which mariner mentioned John Hancock converting it policies to a program called “interactive policies” where insured will be screened and if selected, must participate in the interactive program.

John Hancock, one of the oldest and largest North American life insurers, will stop underwriting traditional life insurance and instead sell only interactive policies that track fitness and health data through wearable devices and smartphones, the company said on Wednesday.

 The move by the 156-year-old insurer, owned by Canada’s Manulife Financial, marks a major shift for the company, which unveiled its first interactive life insurance policy in 2015. It is now applying the model across all of it’s life coverage.

It works like this:

Policyholders score premium discounts for hitting exercise targets tracked on wearable devices such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch and get gift cards for retail stores and other perks by logging their workouts and healthy food purchases in an app. In theory, everybody wins, as policyholders are incentivized to adopt healthy habits and insurance companies collect more premiums and pay less in claims if customers live longer.

Privacy and consumer advocates have raised questions about whether insurers may eventually use data to select the most profitable customers, while hiking rates or not accepting those who do not participate.

Hancock says customers do not have to log their activities to get coverage even though their policies are packaged with the Vitality program. The insurer will begin converting existing life insurance policies to Vitality in 2019, it said.

As mariner understands it, your insurance company knows if you eat three strips of bacon instead of one or skip a morning run when Grandma visits and will have the right to raise your premium or even drop you for someone else who helps the company’s profit margin. As regular readers know, mariner is extremely sensitive to corporations telling him what to eat, know, or do with his life – especially if it is for the benefit of the corporation.

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To wax philosophically for a moment and promising not to be verbose, we are watching capitalism leverage a changing technological society for profit. The way to tell the difference between capitalism and other isms is that the wellbeing and advantage in other isms is driven by the individual or by government in the individual’s behalf – not using the individual foremost as a controlled instrument for profit. If there is no profit in an individual, buzz off. Who cares?

The beginning of this post mentioned the merger of CVS and Aetna. Leverage gained will be through combined databases about customers. Then, just like the book 1984, the customer will have to do what the corporation says to do – which cuts overhead and locks in pharmacy prices based on each individual’s profit value instead of what the market in general will bear.

And to top it off, one’s life is not managed by one’s own decisions.

More disturbingly, these corporate controls smell of Harari Yuval’s belief that in the future unwanted humans will not be cared for by society. Is the future now?

Ancient Mariner

 

Soul Mates

Mariner has discovered a soul mate. He is an ex-computer person that has switched to social psychology and philosophy and now writes books about the abuses that we put upon ourselves in the name of modern communication technology. His name is Jaron Lanier. He has written a book: Ten arguments for Deleting Social Media Accounts Right Now. He has an interview on CSPAN that is enlightening[1]. Mariner must warn you that his sartorial splendor leaves much to be desired but his mind is clearly focused. No one that mariner has read has delved into the disruptive consequences of social media as Jaron has.

Jaron starts his presentation by reminding everyone of the science of behaviorism; he cites B.F. Skinner, the major personality of behaviorism. Stated as briefly as mariner can, behaviorism is a person’s response to feedback, that is, if it is rewarding, people tend to return and do it again; if it is negative, people tend not to do it again. Skinner proved in his experiments with animals that manipulating reward or negativity will modify behavior in a predictable way.

Jaron suggests that the Internet and the data manipulators using the Internet have created a negative loop in the communication cycle. This is because negative behavior is more reactive and, importantly, expands in the loop much faster than positive behavior. We can reference this phenomenon ourselves with the racist and Russian impact on the Internet. The negativity flows rapidly and expands until no one can tell the difference between truth and falsehood. Another example is Donald’s constant reference to fake news; the negativity spreads quickly, outrunning positive behavior that requires confirmation. The end result is no information can be trusted.

Jaron warns us that while only five or ten percent of the user group will adopt negative information that is enough to disrupt politics, society norms, and stable platforms for unity and ethical values. To wit: the 2016 Presidential campaign where Donald held forth with negative values thereby overwhelming informative dialogue offered by other candidates.

Listed briefly below are the ten arguments for deleting your social media account[2]. Exploring each one is a whole post. Mariner suggests the reader buy the book or watch the C-SPAN video.

1.You are losing your free will.

2.Quitting social media is the most finely targeted way to resist the insanity of our times.

3.Social media is making you into an a**hole.

4.Social media is undermining truth.

5.Social media is making what you say meaningless.

6.Social media is destroying your capacity for empathy.

7.Social media is making you unhappy.

8.Social media doesn’t want you to have economic dignity.

9.Social media is making politics impossible.

10.Social media hates your soul.

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] See: https://www.c-span.org/video/?447079-2/ten-arguments-deleting-social-media-accounts-now

[2] Courtesy of Christine Pennylegion at https://inthisordinarytime.wordpress.com/2018/07/02/jaron-laniers-ten-reasons/

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.

֎

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

 

Walking as a Cultural Phenomenon

When was the last time you rode a horse to the Post Office, elementary school, fast food restaurant, relatives, friends or a nearby shopping district? Probably not for a long time if ever. Most likely you ride in or on a vehicle. Walk? Poo – who has time to walk? Walking is for health obsessives and retired people. However, it is true that the most important physical function of Homo sapiens is walking. Walking was our survival tool back in the early days; we could walk all day without stopping. Still present today are parts of the brain that lie idle until you walk.

Walking has more benefits than lifting weights, yoga, meditation, housework, gardening – even swimming. None of these are bad; in fact if you pursue them, continue! But walking is magical. The whole brain – conscious and unconscious, troubled and untroubled, thinking and unthinking, healthy and unhealthy – knows immediately when you begin to walk. At a proper pace, walking even induces meditation, leaving the rest of the brain to pay attention to the erstwhile idle walking instructions.

The benefits of walking have been proven over and over and over again. The health industry is rife with advice to patients to walk. Mariner went to Mayo Clinic recently with four diverse conditions in mind. Every physician said walking will improve mariner’s situation.

Why don’t we walk as part of our daily routine? Time. Time is why we don’t darn socks anymore, don’t have clothes that should be ironed, prefer to survive on frozen, ready-to-eat meals, order everything online instead of using storefronts, use Interstates instead of US highways, put up with abuse when flying, driving one’s self and the kids to a neighborhood event instead of walking, on and on . . . except watching television. We always have time for television from 5:00AM to 2:00AM; certainly there is no time to walk for Pete’s sake!

Actually, we all have time. It’s just not how we do things. Using mariner’s town and family as an example, we do drive everywhere even though walking anywhere in town is not a great effort. Two things must occur: 1, slow the day down. Believe it or not, everything still will be accomplished. 2, if your destination is within a mile or two, walk instead of drive. In mariner’s town this applies to the bank, Post Office, laundry, three family households, library, churches, golf course, convenience store, discount store, lumber yard, fair grounds, car garages, etc. In our town, we can walk to two gas stations. Simply make time in your time-driven schedule to walk as part of your daily experience. Simply say to your family as you leave, “I’m walking to the Post Office.”

Mariner will not engage in the detailed chemistry or benefits of walking – information is everywhere; just type ‘benefits of walking’ in your search engine or go to your library.

If mariner must walk, you must walk, too.

Ancient Mariner

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Next Thursday mariner plans to upgrade his eyeglass prescription. He is undecided about whether to tune them to Dish or DirecTV or Roku; so many options . . . His bridgework is due for an upgrade, too. Should he include the health monitoring package? Which hospital? . . . My dog is having a chip implant so mariner always knows where the dog is; mariner plans to have an implant as well so the dog, among others, always knows where mariner is.

Someone suggested an imbedded mood chip that automatically dispenses an antidepressant. That is depressing – how about a chip that helps with sex? Mariner has joined a clothier website that sells chip-embedded clothing. Integrated with his weather app and his appointment calendar, it buys his clothes and each day picks his outfits. As to what to eat for breakfast, a meal is set out based on his key nutritional KPIs (such as hydration, body mass, and hemoglobin levels) recorded from that health option in his teeth. Mariner is not sure the dog cares about that. To drive to work, make sure to fasten your seatbelt. That’s all you need to do; the car drives its self and knows where you are going because it is integrated with your appointment…. There is a keyring bauble that can locate one’s cellphone no matter where it is – usually at home when travelling. As to locating one’s smartphone, it’s the other way around: the smartphone always knows where you are.

– – – –

Writing recently about how humans can wage war with telecommunications, mariner became interested in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Chicken Little already has fled to the basement to build a lead-lined safe room. We are familiar with the servant robots that sauntered about on the Jetsons; we are aware of robotic machinery in factories; we are aware of desktop functions like editing, faxing and checking out Facebook. We are aware that businesses like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Bing, et al, know our every move, taste, income, political preference, when we will buy an automobile and what model – more than you know yourself. AI has invaded our bodies and our brains or, in other arenas, makes better decisions than human brains. This is scary stuff!

For the moment, humans are not entombed in coffins at birth as depicted in Matrix. But AI technology is well on its way to living your life for you. A new phenomenon called ‘fake news’ has emerged. We are susceptible to fake news because we no longer live in a human-based sphere of empirical knowledge. For many, the existential reality is hundreds of TV channels that have no foundation in a person’s empirical reality. This includes television news as well as many fabricated websites on the Internet.

Searching for meaningful truth, we defend ourselves with ‘truthiness,’ Stephen Colbert’s invented word that says truth is what feels right, not what facts say truth is. Mariner visited Facebook for a few weeks. Facebook is an alternative reality which sits at the center of life experience for active participants. The smartphone is the portal through which we give our sense of self away to the AI world. At some point, AI will know enough about you to replicate you in an AI world. At that point, it may be time to pick out a coffin.

– – – –

Before closing his post, mariner asks that we pause to honor the passing of Fats Domino. He died Tuesday at the age of 89.

Before closing his post, mariner urges every reader to contact their Congressman to press for impeachment. The Donald phenomenon is no longer about compensating for a King complex; it is about stopping a brutal, unnecessary war, perhaps nuclear, with North Korea. Removing Donald is the only way to unplug a tragic and imminent future.

Ancient Mariner

 

Uncle Sam needs YOU

Here is some encouraging news: in the 2018 elections, 209 democrats are registered to run for the House of Representatives. This is quite a phenomenon. See past elections in the following chart provided by the Campaign Finance Institute:
Democrats Republicans
2004 22 – 29
2006 48 – 24
2008 57 – 49
2010 40 – 78
2012 42 – 40
2014 45 – 52
2016 44 – 28
2018 209 – 28
The desire to rid our governments of fleas (earlier post) has taken hold. This is a welcome army for reconstruction of failed governments – especially the failed Federal Government. But the party is short on Generals – especially Generals who will articulate the goals, who can instill unity, who can arm the campaigners with the words and common cause that at the moment are missing weapons.
The republicans know they are in a fight in the 2018 elections. However, it is not a level playing field. Gerrymandering alone will defeat democratic campaigns; as will the money, indeed the wealth in many republican coffers. Those of us who consider ourselves unattached to electoral activity must now help our enlisted activists and campaigners. Mariner is reminded of the many efforts by common citizens who supported WWII by collecting string, metal, and gave up many food items in the household; even gasoline was available to civilians only in limited amounts. But American spirit was high – it was the least they could do and do willingly.
Can we raise our spirits to help the political troops? Enthusiasm is contagious. Since Kennedy, there has not been a natural democratic advantage of this magnitude. Perhaps it is the eclipse…
The least we can do is nag fleas with letters and telephone calls. Let them know what legislation is not allowable and what they are bound to do to serve their constituency first – even before their lobbyist managers. Remember the Civilian Defense Corps? It is your time to do what you can do and do it willingly.
Ancient Mariner