On Lack of Literary Greatness

Mariner has one comment on the results of the 2018 midterm elections:

Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate to 51+ seats — even though 10 million more people voted for Senate Democrats than for Republicans. The Senate was never intended to be a democratic institution. Today it is a hurtful political influence when our nation, indeed the world, needs desperately to deal with human issues, scruples and a new democratic vision.

– – – –

Of more immediate interest, Mariner will never be an author of insightful literary works. The post, “A Future of Oneness,” was written as an allegorical work depicting life without human friendship, love, bonding, compassion and even argument and disagreement – between authentic human beings. Alas mariner’s crude prose left readers only with a literal interpretation of the future, either a gushy basketball or extinction.

In truth, the distant future doesn’t matter much if at all. Our only relationship to the distant future is our disregard for our own wellbeing today. What is missing from this allegory is physical, three dimensional, person-to-person respect and affection, and a desire to participate in these intimate experiences above the need to engage in electronic distraction and convenience.

Many times mariner has witnessed couples sitting beside one another foregoing mutual conversation and the exercise of hippocampus engagement in favor of some nondescript, certainly inhuman distraction on an electronic device. Allegorically, we are adapting to a future as gushy basketballs needing only a port connection to the gushy network.

Similarly, foregoing real experiences intertwined with real human beings, even loved ones dear to one’s heart, so that one can talk to an electronic box full of faux confederacies interested only in manipulation, seems headed for gushiness as well.

Mariner read a psychologist’s article that said android devices are an escape from the energy and commitment required to relate to fellow humans. Yet, that is what living as a human is all about. The commitment we choose to escape is the authentic experience of being human.

As to the second allegorical reference of extinction, two elements are of supreme importance: breeding and environment. One won’t have many children copulating with various sex toys and realistic androids. It is easy even to include smart phones as a distraction from human interaction and the commitment required for foreplay or just having an interesting conversation. Surely, after ninety million years of evolution, the intimate practices between humans has become the most important experience we can have and to which we owe priority over electronic circuitry no matter how disguised.

On the matter of environment – just as with the ease of preferring the convenience and laziness provided by electronics – wealth, physical comfort, and the avoidance of what a real human life is all about, distract humans from their obligation to maintain their environment. A major premise in the study of creatures of all kinds, including humans, is that there must be a net zero relationship with the source of life – environment. Only humans can deliberately alter the net zero relationship: we burn oil for money, convenience, distractions like war, the convenience not to physically weed millions of acres of crops, and so forth – even though our environment is no longer under our control. The planet itself has taken charge. Will the planet allow us to survive or will it choose extinction?

Ancient Mariner

 

A Future of Oneness

Mariner mentioned that he took a trip recently to visit friends and family. He has been traveling the Pennsylvania Turnpike for many, many, many years. Do any readers remember the service stops alongside the turnpike where one did not have to exit the toll road? If the reader hasn’t traveled I-76 recently, these service stops have been upgraded to modern facilities. They are pleasant, much roomier, with up-to-date restrooms and the stop incorporates several chain stores chief among them Starbucks and Burger King along with tourist trap stores and gasoline stations.

This was mariner’s first experience with order kiosks at Burger King. A customer doesn’t need to interact with another human being to have a meal; just push buttons and pay with one’s transaction-tracked credit card. Mariner chose to interact with a fellow human being and ordered lunch at the traditional counter by talking with a pleasant older woman who shared in an aside that she didn’t like the kiosks, either.

This isolation of human beings appears to be a trend. No longer does one need a checkout clerk to kibitz with or an aisle clerk to tell one where Mexican catsup is. Increasingly, a customer checks themselves out now with the conversation limited to a muttering to one’s self about checking out alone. Even more isolationist is the ability to order one’s groceries over the telephone and have them delivered to one’s home. The US claim of “In many one” will soon be “In many none.”

Walmart and Amazon are well on the way toward social isolationism. What happened to a human’s natural relationship to environment, time invested and store clerks visited? Then there’s Facebook. Lack of government regulation about privacy and security aside, there are members of mariner’s family whose only family relationship across years of time is digital; digital photographs are shared to remember what a human lifeform looks like.
And of course the smartphone and Alexa. Mariner is quite sure that soon humanlike robots will be purchased so real humans will have someone to dance with when they ask Alexa to play some oldies.

Mariner has read some marginal futurists who claim the human being will evolve into a brain with a few key visceral organs – all of which are sustained by AI food supply, medicines and communication – a lot like Facebook now but much more sophisticated and very, very, communist. Even the five senses will be replaced with electronic sensory imitations. In other words, the end of Homo sapiens is a gushy basketball attached to a port in a massive network of gushy basketballs.

But mariner doubts this scenario. He listens to Amos, who says the entire Planet is in a death spiral; the Sixth Extinction means humans too, not just tigers and giraffes.

Have a pleasant election.

Ancient Mariner

 

Theologically Speaking

Theologically speaking, mariner believes there are so many people alive today that God has arranged to have some of us live longer so God has time to process purgatory before we die instead of afterward. For example, several years ago God arranged mariner’s life so that mariner would be retired to a small Iowa town on the Great Plains. Well, it’s been awhile now. Wait – what if mariner is wrong and this isn’t purgatory . . .

It may be that purgatory isn’t the issue at all; it’s the eternal places that are overcrowded.

God has many issues to overcome while managing the afterlife. There’s the old story about the less than scrupulous old man who died and was paired for eternity with a strikingly beautiful young woman. Speaking in an aside to one of the residents, the man said, “Wow, I must have done something good to deserve this.” “No,” the resident replied, “this is Hell and you are her punishment.”

The worst game loss the Chicago Bears ever experienced was September 27, 1964: Baltimore Colts 52, Bears 0. Colt Joe Don Looney ran for 82 yards – quite an effort and unusual for him. After he died, Looney asked God why God was so good to him in that game. “I’m glad you recognize my contribution to your life, Joe Don. I was unhappy with the Bears at the time.”

Mariner, an intense Baltimore Colt fan, watched that game but isn’t sure he wants to know God’s motivations. The Colts moved from Baltimore, MD to Indianapolis, IN on March 29, 1984. They left Baltimore unannounced suddenly in the middle of the night. What did mariner do to deserve this? Mariner chooses to believe God is testing his faith, like God did with Job.

– – – –

There will be a pause in mariner’s postings while he travels to visit family and friends. He plans to be back aboard on November 5. He leaves a prayer for you that unless you have done something terribly evil, God will arrange for you to vote on November 6.

Ancient Mariner

 

It’s That Time Again

Yes, it’s time to write a good Haiku. We haven’t written one for quite a while. For readers who have come aboard recently, mariner has a quirky exercise that disciplines one’s thinking both left-brained and right-brained. Writing a haiku requires the same kind of focus that a tough puzzle does; it also requires the soul to bond with nature in a sensitive, almost spiritual manner.
Haiku is a Japanese poetry form that dates back to the ninth century. A haiku uses just a few words to capture a moment that creates a picture in the reader’s mind.
Traditionally, haiku is written in three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Haiku does not have to rhyme unless the author wants to add difficulty. What makes a good haiku is its ability to capture a subtle insight about nature, the universe or a spiritual sensation. Some hints:
Remember to focus on nature. Create a division somewhere in the poem which focuses first on one thing, then on a second. The relationship between these two things can be surprising. Instead of saying how a scene makes one feel, the haiku poet shows the details that cause that emotion. If the image of a dark scene makes the poet feel alone, describing that darkness can give the same feeling to the reader. Some samples from websites:


about seasons
Dainty daffodil
Your golden trumpet fanfares
The dawning of spring


about mourning
Such precious gemstones
Morning dew shines like diamonds
God’s tears from heaven


about winter
Thick blanket of snow
Snuggling the flowerbeds
With a winter wrap


and one from the ancient mariner
Darkness lingers long
Light and its color grow strong
Daytime sings its song


NOW IT IS YOUR TURN!


Ancient Mariner

Belonging is a Feeling

There has been an upward tick in visits during the last two posts that dealt with the difference between nationalism and shared personal feeling. It appears that most of us are self-evaluated based on self-adopted, doctrinaire rules that are supposed to yield a successful life. By their nature, these rules of life are self-oriented and place each of us in an isolated role where our own achievement is the measure of our social worth (those without jobs are unworthy; I have a job therefore I am worthy).

This strategy for defining meaningfulness for ourselves becomes aggravated in times of rapid, significant change in society. It seems that our assumed measures of self-value don’t work as well; especially when we see success in other parts of our society. This is the insecure energy that feeds populism and identity politics. We blame our social structures for not accepting what we thought were ‘inalienable’ rights and values. There are real conditions that feed the flame of insecurity; for example, living longer than our generational culture, a drop in financial security, changes in religious culture, and artificial constraints to personal dignity brought on by racism and class stratification.

We forget that we belong. We are charter members of our civic population. We belong despite the fact that we are conservative, liberal, greedy, selfless, ill, jobless, persons of different classes, cultures and races, green card citizens, or immigrants. We belong to a civic organization, from township to nation, which provides a philosophy of life that values every resident as equal. In some civic organizations, belonging may require the experience of commonly applied severe and brutal abuse as in Syria or Venezuela. The United States philosophy, however, stated in our Declaration of Independence and iterated in our Constitution, requires a working democracy where every vote counts and thereby provides life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for everyone. As the reader may know, life ain’t perfect.

Having a feeling of belonging introduces a feeling of equality which is important to each individual. Despite the inequalities of society and opportunity, one can always say “I am an American citizen – no less important than any other citizen.” Belonging to an idea rather than an artificial doctrine is what Bono’s message is all about.

Mariner, long an advocate of practiced empathy, sees a link between civic-mindedness and empathy. Civic-mindedness acknowledges an equal basic value for every citizen; every citizen is a member of the greater idea – which generates a feeling of belonging even under different individual circumstances.

When a citizen quits belonging and instead identifies with an adopted value system – as the Congress of the United States has – the feeling of citizenship and belonging to the US suffers. Suffered enough, citizens form counter values and adopt populism as a remedy. As the mariner is doing in an effort to find his garden among the weeds, the reader, too, should rummage about looking for the feeling that you belong to your country along with everyone else – despite your personal evaluations.

Ancient Mariner

 

Do you know your epitaph?

True, tombstones are not so much the fashion today but one should not ignore one’s epitaph whether on a tombstone or not. In just a few words, certainly less than a dozen, a person’s life is encapsulated for all time. Who are you? What is it about you that contributed to reality?

Addressing the enormity of the epitaph with humor, mariner’s family and friends are well aware mariner considers the verb ‘get’ to be an evil destroyer of vocabulary. American usage, especially the simple past and past participle (got), displaces at least 17 additional words every day. What happened to “I received mail?” or “I understand it?” and a myriad more forgotten words that actually have a specific meaning. Even word partner ‘have’ is left out: “I gotta go.”

Mariner’s wife was quick to offer her choice for mariner’s epitaph: “Here lies mariner. He got dead.” Her own characteristics of never being able to leave the house just once without forgetting something and coming back – two or three times – provided her epitaph: “Here lies mariner’s wife. She’ll be back.” Identifying one another’s epitaphs should be entertainment for the family or even at a party.

Humor aside, although it is the fun part, identifying the most important influence one has had on reality is a personal value that carries serious import. The ego, too, is close to the surface. The caveat is that the opinion of others may not be as rosy or complimentary as one’s own opinion. In short, epitaph may become epithet. For example, “Here lies Sam. He never met a prejudice he didn’t like.” Perhaps, “Here lies Darlene. She made the most of eleven marriages.

The subjects of these two examples likely had more grandiose images of themselves, perhaps invoking thoughts of sacrifice to others in spite of the world the subjects lived in. Many are aware that they have committed their life to a cause. A very common example is caring for the quality of life in a spouse; another common raison d’être is raising one’s children.

It is true that epitaphs based on behavioral characteristics tend to be humorous but there is merit to identifying within one’s self what one did to improve the world in some way. One doesn’t need to discover this at a party. In fact, each of us needs to give time every once in a while to what value our life has been to reality.

Ancient Mariner

 

The Times – They are A-Changin’

Mariner found the article below in an old Time magazine. Currently, scientists anticipate 20 billion living humans by the end of the century. If they all live forever and each couple continues having two children, what a fine thing that will be???

Is an Anti-Aging Pill on the Horizon?

By Alexandra Sifferlin

“NAD+ is the closest we’ve gotten to a fountain of youth,” says David Sinclair, co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Harvard Medical School. “It’s one of the most important molecules for life to exist, and without it, you’re dead in 30 seconds.”

NAD+ is a molecule found in all living cells and is critical for regulating cellular aging and maintaining proper function of the whole body. Levels of NAD+ in people and animals diminish significantly over time, and researchers have found that re-upping NAD+ in older mice causes them to look and act younger, as well as live longer than expected. In a March 2017 study published in the journal Science, Sinclair and his colleagues put drops of a compound known to raise levels of NAD+ into the water for a group of mice.

Within a couple hours, the NAD+ levels in the mice had risen significantly. In about a week, signs of aging in the tissue and muscles of the older mice reversed to the point that researchers could no longer tell the difference between the tissues of a 2-year-old mouse and those of a 4-month-old one.

Now scientists are trying to achieve similar results in humans…[1]

– – – –

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously said, “Change is the only constant in life.” Indeed so as we enter what looks like it will be civilization’s most disruptive century since the Black Plague. Consider this list:

Climate change – coastal cities around the world will be flooded; much of the temperate zone will become tropical; ocean life will dwindle to a serious degree; penguins and polar bears will be homeless and hungry; environmental stresses will interfere with war; the travesty of climate destruction will test the strongest economies.

Artificial Intelligence – already reducing major job markets and soon will displace many lawyers, family care physicians, financial advisors, mortgage brokers and everyone who performs data entry tasks; public transportation including trains, planes, cars and 18-wheelers will drive themselves (this likely may require making human drivers illegal); AI will interfere with cultural policies about race and religious segregation – simply because identity politics won’t be affordable.

Banking and Finance – Artificial intelligence also will affect the way we relate to income and assets; economies will be influenced by increasingly socialist solutions to solve problems too large and diverse to be addressed by individual national economies or corporations; individual families may not own much directly but will participate in largescale consortiums (think something like Amazon.Com); salaries will be separated from most jobs and distributed directly to citizens. [Yes, this may sound blasphemous to fiscal conservatives but mariner draws this opinion from existing evidence that banks, corporations and governments are thinking about how to manage a future where everyone around the world has instant contact with everyone else and personal assets are managed electronically; ways to bundle housing, payroll, transportation and accessories as a single package; ways to bundle services like health care and education.]

Mariner is concerned that we may simply turn over to others our privacy, independent choices in our lives, even our choice of taste in clothing and other daily interests. Both the book 1984 and the movie Matrix loom as literary shadows if we do not move into this century level-headed and wisely.[2]

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] http://time.com/5159879/is-an-anti-aging-pill-on-the-horizon/

[2] For someone who has given the immediate future great thought, buy the book, We’re doomed, Now what?: Essays on war and Climate Change. by Roy Scranton.

Intuition/Personality

A legitimate question was raised as to why mariner did not include personality variables in the last post. There are tons of personality tests about intelligence (Stanford-Binet), skill assessment (SAT, GRE), decision variables (Myers-Briggs), and many general tests (MMPI). There are so many that mariner refers the reader to Wikipedia at:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tests

Every personality/capability/decision test adds understanding about personalities, aptitudes and function preferences – even attitudes. Mariner is not writing a book; he suspects his readers do not want to read a book. His intent always is to inject an interesting perspective into one’s daily schedule. Consequently when the subject is human behavior, he depends on truisms, popular psychology tools, general behavior and a sailor’s intuition.

When mariner was an independent consultant, he had contracts to teach leadership skills, organization methods and computerization of business models. All these subjects rest on human behavior. Mariner often used Myers-Briggs to sensitize how one participates in a group. He borrowed instructional tools from W. Edwards Deming, Peter Drucker and others. One of mariner’s favorites is Deming’s playing card games which demonstrated that employees will do anything, even cheat, to be successful. (One thinks of Sarah Huckabee Sanders)

A personal favorite mariner devised was on the second day of training, when the students were out to lunch, he and his team would move everyone’s materials to a different seat. This caused immense discomfort in many of the students but it demonstrated one’s conservatism in sustaining the status quo – a behavior that inhibits making good decisions.

Mariner responded to a reader’s reply about not including Myers-Briggs. The response suggests that when presented in a group that was predefined (employee groups), 99% used the four letter scores negatively for purposes of self-promotion and elitism. While Myers-Briggs is technically sound, it carries overhead in a behavioral training session.

So, as it states in the blog page about the mariner, tall tales will be told – with some wisdom, mariner hopes.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Intuition

When mariner was in his thirties, he took courses in sociology and psychology. He became interested in how an individual chooses lifestyle, career and hobbies. Certainly fate itself dictates a great number of choices, often choices that may not fit one’s emotion, talent or physical profile. Still, one becomes aware that certain ways of learning, certain mental and physical skills perform more easily when compared to other people’s profiles.

To demonstrate clearly how an individual is different from another in how they learn and what comes more easily to them, mariner cites three extreme examples of individual skills that demonstrate the differences each of us may have from others.

Alonzo Clemens was a perfectly normal human. Unfortunately, he had a severe accident which damaged his brain. He is no longer a normal individual; he is a savant. Hand him a lump of clay and in minutes he will miraculously produce a perfect replica of any creature, his favorite being horses. Alonzo’s brain easily speaks through his hands.

Alma Deutscher, is a normal British eleven year old musical prodigy. She played the piano and violin at 3; Alma wrote an opera for a full symphony orchestra at age 11 – including the music for each instrument in the orchestra. It was performed to raves. One could say that Alma’s brain is wired to understand and produce music – not a small skill and one where hearing is critical.

Marilu Henner is a well-known actress. She also is one of thirteen known people worldwide with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, or H-SAM. Marilu has full retention of her entire life complete with dates, what she did on a given day, and everyone she spoke to on that day. Marilu’s brain is wired like a database; parsing information is her special ability. This phenomenon does not interfere with other emotional or physical experiences. Mariner selected Marilu as an example from AARP magazine. You can read this article at:

https://www.aarp.org/entertainment/television/info-07-2013/marilu-henners-incredible-memory-tips.html

We plain folk aren’t mental superstars but it is important to realize that each of us has a discerning skill and aptitude that makes each of us special. It makes for an easier life if we are conscious of our specialties; this makes it easier to select our job, hobby, and leverage the special way that each of us learns.

There are a number of characteristics that can help us identify our abilities. For example, each of us tends to learn more easily with one sense over the others. Some find it easier to learn by touching or doing; some find it easier to learn by hearing; some find it easier to learn by watching; some by reading, etc. In the AARP article, Marilu suggests to review the day’s experiences by replaying them mentally, using our brain’s image of what we did that day, will noticeably improve our memory. Mariner, for example, learns best using sight; at the end of the day he should run a set of images through his brain that will serve as memory anchors.

Another aspect of learning is how our brains solve problems. Some will be better at solving procedural problems; others will be better at comparative solutions and others may understand solutions better if they have a broad perspective of the issue.

An old pop-psych description mariner has referenced before is the what-how-why description of arriving at solutions. Which is the most informative question you ask yourself when confronted with a situation that needs a solution?

What do I do?   How do I do this?     Why do I do this?

Combining the favored sense for learning with the manner by which we solve problems is a simple description of our individual aptitude. Those who learn best by touch or hands-on engagement coupled with ‘what do I do’ have an aptitude that excels at sequential activities, i.e, bookkeeping, woodworking, and construction among many examples. If we pair hearing and ‘how do I do this’ we likely will be better than average managers where talking and comparative reasoning are important. If we pair sight and ‘why do I do this’ it may be easier to ponder less defined solutions associated with science or cause and effect speculations.

Mariner has a life experience he tells about the time when he was a supervisor of programmers. In large computer systems, there are millions of lines of code so the code is divided into appropriate functions and each is overseen by a supervisor and a team of programmers. A situation arose where mariner was to receive an additional function from another supervisor. He visited the other supervisor to learn what the new function was about; this involved understanding the logic of the code – a very procedural style of logic. The supervisor sat down at the computer and described in rapid succession sixteen steps required to manage the function. Mariner, not being so glib as an intensely ‘what’ person at procedure, learned absolutely nothing about the meaning of the sixteen steps. The supervisor went through the steps again and a third time. Mariner was as ignorant as he was before the supervisor started. The supervisor asked mariner how he ever got a job as a supervisor and said as much to our manager. Fortunately, our manager was wise to our different aptitudes and dismissed the situation. Mariner later sat down with the code manual, read through the code a few times and understood what the function was about.

The important lesson in this life experience is to not judge people as inferior because they don’t have the same aptitude and skill experience as you.

We are amazed when people with very special aptitudes perform. A common example is the person who can do instant math. They stand at the front of an audience and outperform calculators. They seem not to do mental calculation; in fact they don’t. The brain intuitively knows the answer. A similar example is the memory experts who in real time can learn and recite massive amounts of detail like the first names of everyone in an auditorium. True, these specialists have honed techniques that help. However, we with all the techniques in the world could not compete with them.

A way to tell if you are in line with your aptitude is when you know solutions without calculating; another way to say that is you know intuitively: It seems so easy; why does everyone have trouble with this? I could do this job in my sleep; I feel good about myself when I exercise my aptitude. Athletes talk about being in the zone. The brain takes over and controls muscle and skeleton without conscious effort and performs better than if the athlete were thinking about his actions. Michael Jordon recounted his basketball shot at the last second in a close game: “I wasn’t worried about making the basket; I knew I would make it.” Each of us has a zone of some kind.

Enjoy learning who you are. You are unique.

Ancient Mariner

 

A New Stratum

The planet Earth has many layers of rock that have accumulated over eons of time. Each new layer sits atop an older layer. One layer is called a stratum. We who live on the surface are not aware of the many strata that hold our land masses together. We simply know what we see at the surface and form expectations about the surface environment. Ideas have strata, too. Over human history many layers of ideas have formed and together support our expectations in this present time.

A stratum lies beneath and supports our expectations about fairness, our expectations about equality, and our expectations about justice. We expect American society to have a set of scruples and we expect, without explicit definition, everyone to live by these scruples. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution plus the Bill of Rights promote scruples and guarantee a system of jurisprudence that assures a set of scruples. The stratum that lies beneath our sense of fairness, equality, justice and cultural scruples has a name: meritocracy. In the current meritocracy, all citizens have the opportunity to be recognized and advanced in proportion to their abilities and accomplishments. But meritocracy is subject to reinterpretation.

Words like freedom, liberty, pursuit of happiness, be all you can be, anyone can be President – all are expressions supported by meritocracy. When we look back to the thirties and forties, when the Great Depression, World War II and the years that followed established the current definition of meritocracy, we realize that a new stratum is forming; a new layer that will support a different set of expectations about the scruples of our society. Aware that a new definition is forming raises serious questions. How will existing scruples, fairness, etc., be reinterpreted? Will a new meritocracy support the ‘opportunity to be recognized and advanced in proportion to their abilities and accomplishments’? Importantly, “What will happen to me?”

Meritocracy is very malleable. Meritocracy is the flour in baked goods of every type, flavor and texture. The analogy of flour is apropos even to the event of having to rise; just because meritocracy is proclaimed, as in the Declaration of Independence, doesn’t mean it exists. Unlike baked goods, there is no given recipe – spices and additives are endless and often do not bake well.

In a final colorful analogy, meritocracy is like a toy top spinning on the floor. Spinning is wobbly and unstable in its direction but the fact that it seems to defy imbalance and stay spinning provides a good feeling and provides a sensation of success. This analogy is apropos of any ideal. Ideals by their very nature are unachievable; once fallen, ideals must be rewound and thrown again – and again. Each new definition of meritocracy is a new stratum in history; meritocracy is the flour of society; meritocracy, in the end, never will be permanent.

– – – –

What follows are general waypoints in the emergence, practice and transition of meritocracy.

What do Caligula, Henry VIII, Harold Hardrada, Napoleon, Hitler, Yeltsin, Erdogan, and Donald have in common?

Each of them, more by the power of their personality disorders than anything else, are the final blow that brought an end to an old stratum; government and culture were weak; mores, scruples and social expectations were in disarray. External status quo, that is, the world in general had changed but old internal assumptions held on until international conflict occurred and provoked the rise of new sources of power through overthrow of government, populism, or in some cases, war.

What do rice, wheat, corn, barley, and potatoes have in common?

The first significant shift in meritocracy was when early man discovered farming. Each of these crops in their own circumstances around the world created a totally new social order. Any significant change in economy or how economy works will trigger a new stratum – a new definition of human rights. The same can be said for inventions, communication, chemical advances and, especially until the entire world was mapped, exploration. Expectations about economic fairness, opportunity and confidence are life-changing in any regard and dissatisfaction quickly will challenge current perceptions of meritocracy.

What do Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, Moses and Muhammad have in common?

Obviously, each is the spiritual center of a major religion. Philosophical and theological contributions by each established codes of behavior and expectations which influenced all aspects of culture – even economics. Each religion straddles many strata and is an active force in changing the definition of meritocracy. Today, the impact of global economy, instant global information, and worldwide instant communication has brought various religions into conflict because global standardization does not mix well with the idiosyncrasies of different religious principles. This conflict in itself suggests a new definition of meritocracy is emerging.

Transition from one definition of human rights to another is messy and must pass through a hodgepodge of events and probabilities. No one can actually predict turns of events if one is living in the midst of stratum change. Below are some contemporary existential phenomena.

֎ Remember when . . . name any subject. If things are different today than they were a decade or two ago, meritocracy is undergoing redefinition.

֎ The economy is out of balance to the point that citizens are not sharing in the profits (remember the Luddites?). As alluded to earlier, nothing jumpstarts a new stratum like economic dissatisfaction.

֎ Populism emerges as a potent political force. The 2016 election was clear evidence that government was not meeting meritocracy’s expectations.

֎ New technology modifies cultural values and behavior. This began to accelerate when an individual could buy one’s own computer; then amplified by cellular phones and now aggravated by smartphones and social media to the point that normal interpersonal behavior is a matter of electronic potential instead of human potential. Need a spouse? Find them on the Internet; who wants to bother with socializing and honing one’s interpersonal skills?

֎ Those in power show signs of abuse when dealing with due process. We in the US certainly suffer this but virtually the whole of South America suffers big time.

֎ Allegiance to a common value disintegrates into partisan bickering; the big issue today is the one Russia is manipulating; Americans are not united in their expectations; the stratum of meritocracy is unstable.

֎ Compound all this by our knowledge that another significant change lies just a few years down the calendar: artificial intelligence. We have no idea what that will do to our human rights, our definition of meritocracy, our new stratum.

The point of all this is that we are living lives of unusual stress because our expectations about our role in society, our sense of fairness, our sense of protection, our sense of justice – all are without a stable foundation. Meritocracy, the foundation concept that provides order for these issues, is shifting.

One last analogy: we are sailing in stormy seas. We must take control of the helm to assure that what we still think is fair, equal and just will guide our course.

Ancient Mariner