Mariner goes to the Garage

Mariner is of an age similar to his favored old pickup truck. In times past, he and the truck had good times together hauling lumber, driving through snow and floods, tossing hay to the livestock, driving across the continent, towing everything from logs to sailboats. Even now the truck’s power and drive chain work fine. The interior shows wear, is stained in places from coffee, oil and chemicals. The body is rusting through at the quarter panels and the rear bumper shows a patch of rust. Manufactured in 2002, it is just a plain old truck without the high-tech toys of new models. The fact is the good times are in the past; it sits in the shed a lot. It isn’t worth much anymore and the time has come to weigh the cost of keeping it on the road or cashing out with whatever one can get on the market.

So it is with mariner.

In fact, the comparison is very similar – just switch the word truck for mariner. Fortunately, most humans aren’t sold to a junk yard or forced into life-ending labor. Mariner will lumber on, sitting in the shed a lot and pursuing chores of less dimension and adventure. Do not construe this perspective as depression. One senses that times and experiences change as one grows older; mariner doesn’t jitterbug anymore or play football or shoe horses or work 17-hour days but there are other pleasantries that emerge: Time to enjoy others around you simply because they are there. Time to piddle (piddle means to be deeply occupied with issues of little significance – a strange blue flower in the hedge row; squirrels living an entire life experience in the back yard; watching the wife fold clothes; writing posts for the Ancient Mariner.)

It is time to take mariner to a garage for a full checkup. The garage is called Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Having experienced only the typical clinics and hospitals scattered about the towns and cities of the United States, mariner is struck by the different way this colossal medical city performs in comparison. Mariner is assigned to an admissions team of 23 physicians, nurses, specialists and clinical assistants who quickly launch Mayo operations into dozens of examinations, diagnostics, and consultations all of which reveal pleasingly extensive expertise among the mechanics. His first visit, primarily a discovery of who is mariner, took three days.

Mariner is back for a few days of continued testing and data gathering and to have consultations that discuss the ramifications of rusty quarter panels. He must state that the overwhelming advice is to get out of the shed and back on the road. In the near future, mariner will visit Mayo again to discuss the carburetor and the GPS.

Aside from the medical efficiency and notable expertise are the experience of tunnels and the logistics of moving smoothly from one check-in desk to the next covering 19 floors in two Admissions buildings. Available to patients are many rooms for urine tests, bloodletting, x-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs and other functions such that the patient moves quickly between stations.

But it is the tunnels that are the most fascinating experience. As the reader may know, Minnesota harbors the coldest winter weather in the United States. Mayo likely would empty in the winter. Mayo has dealt with this by arranging tunnels between every hospital building, along with several hotels and restaurants. One never need face the bracing experience of high winds and whiteouts above. Mayo truly is a city within the City of Rochester. Its tunnels are as busy as a major airport or Grand Central Station. In the main tunnel, a cavernous space, patients continuously play a grand piano.

Finally, it’s a great place to have prescriptions filled.

Mariner gives Mayo high marks across the board – which is in line with their annual rating for US hospitals: number 1 every year.

Ancient Mariner

 

Church v State

In the early days church v state was not an issue. Before Jesus the government function known today as the ‘upper house’ (House of Lords?) was occupied by a collection of anthropomorphic gods. The lower house and the executive branch spent most of their time trying to guess what the gods were going to do next in their own interests and what twists of fate would they impose on the citizenry. The Old Testament in the Holy Bible spends a significant amount of time trying to have a relationship between Israel and one god, let alone a pantheon of gods. In Greece, military leaders had to visit an oracle to get the final say on whether the next war was worthwhile.

In the western world, Christianity took hold as the major religion. During the Roman Empire era and the expansion of Christianity into Europe, Christianity dominated human politics; all governments were theocracies to the point that the Pope could depose Kings with a thumb pointed downward. To realize how dominant church was over society, read about the Spanish Inquisition or the first oligarchs AKA Christian monasteries or the life and times of Galileo imprisoned because he said the Earth was not the center of the Galaxy or the Universe. However, human self-interest would not go away. Remember Henry VIII?

In the far reaches of Northern Europe, beyond the original advances of Rome and its theocracy, early Christianity was more of a wild card. Theology and theocracy were owned by local kingdoms like Scotland, Wales, England and Ireland. Along with the Nordic countries, these emerging nations lived on a frontier of war for centuries. Eventually, especially in England, the barons found they were spending too much on war and sought an agreement that would limit the power of the King and assure a degree of political independence within each baron’s territory.

They had a big meeting in 1215 and signed the Magna Carta Libertatum[1].

Church v state was born.

The Magna Carta was a deal between human factions. For the first time, human rights were based on common agreement rather than religious proclamation. The Magna Carta had a profound influence on Western political governance. In the United States, one can see the direct and overwhelming influence in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. The United States is a nation based on the rule of law – not the beliefs of a given religion. Nevertheless, in all the documents, religion is granted the practice of religious principles without restriction.

– – – –

Nothing in history is automatic. In fact, mankind does everything it can to muddy the waters of change. From the start, religious authority is implied because God is printed on all US money. Citizens are warned to tell the truth by God’s standards (so help you God…). How quickly we ignored the Christian guide book in Matthew 20:21 that says …”give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

What clobbered the clear principles of US founding documents was the Reformation. America simultaneously was populated and grew with opportunists and religious zealots. The church led early settlement across the nation as it moved west and insisted on strict commitment to the faith. On the other hand, opportunists wanted as little regulation and interference from the government as possible. Generations of citizens grew up with close scrutiny by their parish leadership and virtually none from the government. Consequently, threads of theocratic governance persist to this day. The rule of sanctuary in a religious building still is granted credence; the Amish have their own justice system. Ironically, a beautiful, poetic religion was obliterated when the US destroyed the culture of the North American Indian.

– – – –

So here the US is today – having to go to the Supreme Court to interpret the line between church and state. Not just once but for every piddling conflict: abortion, gays and trannies, commercial restrictions, race, non-Christian religious practices, wedding cakes, and marriage licenses. Amos grows tired of tolerance.

The simple rule is a person is allowed to practice and express their religion in ritual, within family, within any realm of personal possession or likeminded group – even in their personally owned business (without violating state law). On the other hand, that person cannot deny the right of others or the state to have beliefs and legislation of their own that may not be compatible with that person’s religion.

It sounds blunt but if one doesn’t believe in abortion don’t practice it. On the other hand, one cannot dictate the beliefs or rules of others or the state where there are differences in practice.

Mariner leaves it to the reader to decide the rights of Kim Davis who is an elected clerk in a state government post who denies marriage licenses to gays. Do we need the Supreme Court to determine Kim’s responsibility to the freedom of religion clause or the state to act independent of religious proclamation?

Ancient Mariner

[1] (Great Charter of Liberation) For a full and helpful translation of the Magna Carta, see: http://www.magnacartaplus.org/magnacarta/

Witness to the Acceleration of Change

Addressing the older folks for a moment, remember when . . .

Reality was dependable. It was familiar. There was time to pause. Weather was the common conversation. Religion had been around a long time and played a stabilizing role in the community. Families lived through generations without much change between them. Without giving it a thought, jobs lasted a lifetime and often multiple generations worked at the same place. Daily life was stable and dependable – so much so Norman Rockwell could freeze American life on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. Music was friendly and fun. Dancing was ebullient and expressive, or a slow, romantic melody that left time to share feelings with a partner. It was the forties and fifties. It was the last time American culture stood still. Considered only an irritation to the public at the time, the public did not realize that McCarthyism ignited the fuse of change, separatism and social divisiveness that would last to the present day.

Innocently, society wandered into the sixties: Kennedy was shot. King was shot. Bobby was shot. Civil Rights stirred prejudice and violence that hearkened back to slavery; whole neighborhoods were set afire. The Cold War increased. Then the Viet Nam war; college students were shot on campus for protesting – by the National Guard! No one talked about the weather anymore or had time to pause and enjoy reality. Reality couldn’t be trusted anymore; it was full of angst, prejudice and social conflict. By the seventies, ‘one nation indivisible’ no longer existed.

The seventies finally eradicated the memory of that stable culture back in the post war years when Ozzie and Harriet seemed a reasonable interpretation of America. The seventies were dominated by Russia, the cold war, a viable threat of nuclear war, Richard Nixon, and US inflation climbed to 17%. George Wallace was shot. America was growing weary of conflict not only in war but in society as well. The role of religion was under attack by secularists. It was the end of Jimmy Carter and the beginning of Ronald Reagan.

In the eighties, Ronald introduced policies that diminished the influence of a citizenry over their government. Ronald fathered an economy that favored entrepreneurship and capitalization as the power of change. While these policies quieted the populist nature of the citizenry, only today is the Reagan Doctrine declining. As a result of Ronald’s economic policies, assets and income of the citizenry no longer grow at the same pace as the nation; assets began to assimilate unevenly toward the elite classes.

The nineties were a sort of halftime, a pause to enjoy an amiable President and to enjoy the growth in entrepreneurship that led to a relatively strong economy. It was a time to catch a breath in the unending changes society had passed through since the forties. Beneath the respite, however, corporatism and governments diseased by excessive cash from the new entrepreneurs began to damage the culture in a new way. The idea of a job for life was disappearing; regulations controlling the business environment began to protect corporations over the wellbeing of human beings. By 1998, computers and artificial intelligence threw their own wood on the fire that was reducing middleclass comfort, security and identity. John Henry would roll in his grave.

So here we are in the new millennium. Our lives are jammed into a splintered information age stuffed into devices and databases that rapidly take control of that thing called ‘personal freedom.’ The old societal watch guards like religion, human value, the common good, trust in our nation, and equality among the populace, all are gone. Today our society struggles mightily to gain control of rapidly changing cultural values; we seek protection from raucous abuses in an uncontrolled society. To add insult to our injury, we have Donald.

Anyone care to stop over to binge watch some old Ozzie and Harriet episodes?

Ancient Mariner

 

 

The Social Skill of Conversation

This is an awkward post to write. First, it’s mostly about the mariner himself. Secondly, it is about others who have impressed mariner only to intensify his rambling, unmanageable mind. Controlling a thread of meaningfulness written by a wandering mind about a wandering mind is fraught with digression.

See?

The common term is attention deficit disorder. AD folks often talk about forgetting things and places and forgetting tasks. In his early years and throughout his career, mariner did not have much difficulty with forgetting (do not count ignoring). Almost entirely, it was keeping a thought long enough to be completed. Within seconds, mariner’s mind would jump off the focus of a task, a conversation, a situation to be resolved.

When mariner was a toddler, he remembers learning to speak and understand how words related to reality. Then he learned that there was another form of speech called writing. Very frequently mariner would drift into thoughts about talking and writing and the experience of applying language. Forever – even to today – mariner is willing to ponder what life must have been like during the great vowel shift; that time when the letters O-U-G-H had no specific sound. Examples are enough, slough, bough, thought, etc. Why these specific letters? At the same time, spelling was not an exact science. One can read handwritten letters from important people who lived around 1400 – 1750 and spelled words as they saw fit. A spelling bee in those times wouldn’t have had a chance. Mariner digresses.

Mariner always has been distracted easily by new perspectives. For example, he wrote a post recently that proposed each brain talks differently. Not knowing this can lead to condescension and belittlement. Has the reader ever thought during a problem solving conversation, “He doesn’t understand where I’m going with this.” No, he doesn’t but he is thinking the same thing about you.

When mariner and his wife were in the early days of their courtship, he posed the fox and rabbit puzzle to her. How many fox strides would it take for the fox to catch the rabbit if the rabbit took shorter but more frequent strides? She took a sheet of paper and began drawing cute little bunnies in a straight line across the page. Larger fox icons were drawn above. Mariner was quite taken by a graphic solution to an algebraic problem. What his wife had done was design a tool to measure the solution without algebraic input; she designed a yardstick with a dual scale – exactly like a yardstick with metric on one edge and inches on the other. Today, his wife doesn’t bother with solving; she goes straight to the answer. After years of professional library service, his wife is as good as Google. Mariner digresses.

But before mariner digresses, he learned about two Native American brothers who spoke poor English. They were carpenters. A common practice among carpenters is for one to build and measure and the other to cut lumber according to the measure. Not speaking English well and especially not versed in fractions and feet, they had developed a telegraph-like code to share exact lengths. The code consisted of raps on wood of different durations and repetitions; feet were a scraping sound; less than an inch was a quick series of taps. Aren’t these digressions fascinating? Perhaps the reader can think of another method for communicating.

Very quickly, we have traversed a great range of distraction moving from toddler to mediaeval language to his wife’s graphic algebra to wood rapping Indians. It is a pleasant environment unless one is obsessive compulsive. Mariner watched a neighbor pressure wash his truck and RV immediately upon pulling into his driveway despite the fact that it was raining. Mariner digresses.

What was the topic? Oh, yes: The Social Skill of Conversation. In his younger years, mariner, like most of us, was able to handle two thoughts at the same time. Not exactly at the same time because the brain automatically prioritizes what is most important but can switch back and forth almost instantaneously. The switching time slows dramatically as we roll through our sixties. Further, if we delay long enough or intently enough on the second thought, the first thought is gone.

Mariner, as he has demonstrated, has a wandering brain. Any second, any microsecond, he will be drawn to another subject entirely then another and another – whatever occupies his thoughts. Consequently, he can participate in conversations that are speculative or problem solving in nature but fails miserably at standard, sociable chitchat. Mariner’s slowing brain has difficulty recovering focus with general conversation. His term for typical conversational patterns is ‘show and tell’ – a term referencing that time in elementary school when each student in turn went to the front of the class to tell about their summer. It was then that mariner first began to draw stick-figure pictures to occupy his mind. In later years, he was interested in body language and became an art major in high school. Mariner digresses.

To illustrate his failure at conversational skills, he will describe a common experience when having lunch at a senior center. Everyone easily had several years of age beyond retirement. Inevitably, everyone shared their memories and experiences about the many years behind them. The most common topic was a conversation about who was related to whom three generations ago and which houses they lived in. Embarrassingly, mariner often was caught not listening. The leader would call on him for his opinion and he had to climb from a deep vacant hole confessing he was distracted. This pattern of distraction has wandered into general conversation. Someone will be talking to mariner and at a certain point will pause to allow his response. Too many times he is alerted to the situation by a lingering silence.

It isn’t that he has a vacant mind. He is intently thinking about some distracting idea, issue, conundrum or other abstract (if not abstruse) topic. What has begun to fail is mariner’s mental discipline when it is not appropriate to wander. He speculates that it is a condition similar in old age to physical conditioning or arthritis: use it or lose it.

Further, he had an insight into cultural influence on one’s self when he became a grandfather. The torch had been passed to the next generation – those full of responsibility, career, lifestyle, and pursuit of identity. Grandfather can take a break from toeing the line.

So he has.

Ancient Mariner

 

What is it?

You can feel it. Everyone can. It is similar to flying through the Universe faster than the speed of light. It feels like a tennis match using a dozen balls instead of one. It whirls you about like a carnival ride. It feels like you are crawling under barbed wire in the mud while bullets fly around you.

It is change. Change in religion; change in life style; change in deep-rooted national values; change in economic dependability; change in the Earth’s environment; change in self-confidence; change in the workplace. It is change. Change happening faster than ever before. Change so pervasive as to leave the entire world in disarray.

War is changing. Fresh water is disappearing. Work is changing. Seas are rising. Vital food chains are disappearing. Human life lives too long to be supported. Changing weather drives millions out of their habitat into starvation. The mammalian age is fragmenting. Sea life is dying.

If you are older than the Millennials, it feels like passing out in a spinning centrifuge. If you are a Millennial, reality is a hodge podge of artificial experiences that lead nowhere.

Change is so disruptive it begs the question, “How can we change change?” We can’t. Change is not arbitrary; change has no speed control; change cannot be reversed. And, to identify the cause of change, as Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Broadcast news services cannot bring us all the changes. There are too many changes from too many diverse sources. News agencies are busy chasing down nothing more than political frivolity and gossip. Most viewers aren’t interested in change; viewers are interested in viewing frivolity and gossip which require little thought and action. Yet change rumbles the ground beneath us. Rock solid virtuosity is changing to flowing currents of ineptitude. Human life is in the midst of the largest quake in human history.

Ancient Mariner

 

Becoming Really Old

Mariner’s household watched HBO’s clip ‘If you’re not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast’ produced by Carl Reiner. It’s a fluff piece about the secret to living happily into one’s nineties. The sociological statistics one gleans from the show produce the following priorities for longevity:

Be a friend of Carl Reiner.

Be Jewish.

Be wealthy.

Have no life ending health issues.

Have no psychological entrapments – let go and enjoy success.

Be an artist.

Be in a profession that allows one to keep working into one’s nineties.

 

Amos thinks it was a way to get Carl’s friends together on a project that would be fun and also make money. Actually, it is a thought provoking film once one discounts the upbeat atmosphere of highly successful comedians and obviously better than average income. Mariner as well would have enjoyed seeing Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca and Howard Morris – fellow comedians from that magical era.

Generally, the underlying message was to cast off the mental issues and daily hardships that plague all of us through life: feelings of inadequacy, emotional pains, persistent failure, meager circumstances, even physical disabilities. Instead, have full confidence that nothing is wrong about us. We are not focused on burdens; we are focused on lighthearted participation in whatever is going on – something that is entertaining or challenging or charitable. Pay no attention to internal thoughts that may constrain or restrict us; pay no attention to social judgment of our lifestyle. It’s not about us. It’s about everyone else.

Mariner has been blessed to know many nonagenarians. Many were suffering the ravages of age. Nevertheless, it was clear they were self-confident and focused on participating in life as best they could. Very few, if any of us, live a stress-free life; still, becoming a nonagenarian seems to require focus on the world beyond our nose.

Ancient Mariner

Political Nits

One has to hand it to Donald. One of his personally owned golf courses claimed a charity donation of five million dollars. NPR dug into it and could only find $80 thousand. The golf course and Donald have ignored questions about it. Mariner suspects the five million dollar gift is on Donald’s tax form to cut taxes owed. Pardon the use, Robert, but it will be an awesome day when Donald’s tax history is revealed.

The Gold Star issue laid bare Donald’s inability to feel empathy. Even in defensive comments, he can’t find something to blame it on; as in past presidents, generals and other leaders who have suffered the fallen, compassion comes from one’s own heart – nowhere else.

Mariner marvels at the inadequacy of nations to properly respond to the new age of globalization. In China, Xi Jingpin is moving the nation toward the glorious days of communism in an effort to make China Great Again (familiar?); in China, free press is disappearing, civil rights are disappearing. To maneuver around the leadership of the Communist Party, Xi has made himself chairman of several key committees. Other nations actively engaged in isolationism are Great Britain (Brexit), Spain, the United States (at least Donald says so), and the entire European Union – stressed by the wave of immigration and economic conflicts with Eastern European nations.

Globalism requires a market-based economy, not a nation-based economy. The TPP, which has serious civil rights flaws, nevertheless is a model for globalism. Nine nations were about to sign an agreement that bound them to an economic relationship where each nation shared a global market and agreed to a fair distribution of profit.

One of the shortcomings in the TPP is labor distribution. The reader may have noticed that over the past fifty years, corporations are doing everything they can to shed employees, minimize salary and benefits, and hide profits. While the concept of shared profit sounds good between nations, it does not require that job distribution is employee oriented or that corporations, either through taxation of actual profits or through internalized policies, seek to optimize employee participation (jobs). Nevertheless, we should understand that we will share GDP with other nations. Those nations seeking isolation are going in the wrong direction.

The Democratic Party shows signs of hope and increased energy but what is the message? What is the theory of social equality that binds Americans in a democratic society? What are the examples of civil liberty and equality? In mariner’s county, the focus still seems to be on petty local issues. This may be appropriate under general circumstances but today, with conservative policies running amuck from Libertarianism to Reaganism to white supremacy, voters need a new national message. Where is it? Voters already identify with the Affordable Care Act; what else is in the Democratic Bag?

The press recently called Donald the ‘destruction’ President because all he does is undo Obama’s legacy and destroy principles of democracy. But his Cabinet members also are great ‘destructionists’. Put together, our country rapidly is returning to the 1920’s. Mariner wouldn’t be surprised that new racist statues will be ordered and we shall become an archipelago nation as the oceans rise. We will not be a nation of rich-hued skin but a pale whiteness preserved from an ancient era – like a pod of Beluga whales.

Ancient Mariner

 

Each Brain Talks Differently

We are not aware that we talk the way our brain thinks. For example, if you are a good administrator, it’s because your brain thinks procedurally. If you feel a duty to always complete tasks, it’s because your brain thinks in terms of accomplishment. If you are good at abstract conversation, it’s because your brain thinks in an abstract manner.

This approach is different than the old version of ‘why’ people, ‘how’ people and ‘what’ people that described how people solve problems. The ‘talking’ brain approach is a combination of thought and communication – the vocalization of thought rather than the application of problem-solving.

Before we begin, mariner wants to emphasize, quite adamantly, that none of this relates to intelligence! The subject centers on persona and the manner of communicating within that persona.

To consider the relationship between brain and communication, we must be aware of our standing prejudices toward people. Politics, interpersonal experiences, and psychological comparisons easily affect our interpersonal communication but the goal here is to focus only on the influence of the brain as it attempts to communicate.

Mariner stumbled into this pop-psych approach when contemplating his own speech patterns. The two vocalization patterns that provoked this line of thought are the mariner’s inability to participate in ‘show and tell’ conversations, and secondly, the ability to listen closely to what certain people are saying. To the second pattern, a clear example is Hillary Clinton: Hillary’s accomplishments are lauded, her ethic is humanistic, and her work is thoughtful and substantive. Mariner holds her in appropriate recognition – but he cannot listen to her. After one paragraph he finds his concentration is wanting and often drifts into other thoughts. He has known this about a number of men and women over time but only recently has he noticed it as a major behavioral issue.[1]

The first pattern, conversational skills (show and tell, S&T), is most obvious at social gatherings. Everyone is eager to tell about an experience, share knowledge about things, places, and reminisce about the past. There is nothing wrong with this social sharing. Certainly it is rewarding and fulfilling to the sharing person and further is a form of inclusion and acceptance by everyone. Mariner listens . . . but mariner is not provoked to participate.

He wonders why this affect exists. Certainly he enjoys the friendship, he enjoys inclusion within the speaker’s realm, and he respects the speakers as wholesome and valuable people. He just can’t respond in kind. Most obvious in one-to-one S&T conversations, when the speaker pauses with an expectation of a response, mariner is hard pressed to continue the dialogue.

Mariner began to pay attention to his listening, speaking and thinking patterns as a unit. He began to realize that he is glib and filled with active thinking when the subject is about philosophy, sociology, cultural machinations and other broad, thematic issues. Clearly, he is not a procedural thinker. Aha! This is why he cannot listen to Hillary. Hillary is quite intently a procedural thinker. Thoughts, solutions and the attendant speech are bound to procedures rather than to the ideology that validates them. He and Hillary are of mutual intent but on different trains. All of us are bound to speak our mind – making each of us different than others and therefore susceptible to unnecessary prejudice.

These differences are important. The difference between Hillary and Bernie is how they think, ergo, how they speak about goals and objectives. The humanistic content of their speech was similar but their brains considered different perspectives for a solution.

No expert for sure but mariner has a new insight into how prejudices grow. How we receive others and categorize them is heavily dependent on their persona and the projection of that persona into speech. It is a genetically mandated behavior that we classify other individuals in some manner. It is how we treat other individuals that counts. Your brain and its accompanying communication skills have a large role to play in that treatment.

Consider how you accept the personalities on ‘Big Bang Theory’. They’re bound by the way their minds think – an element of persona that the actor must understand. Have you mentally classified them in terms of your opinion rather than accepting without judgment their persona and communication as a normal human being whose brain thinks differently than yours?

Our President, too, has an eccentric way of communicating. That eccentricity is understood only if we can understand how his brain thinks. Doing so makes us realize that his brain is damaged and incomplete.

In every moment of communication, we must acknowledge a person’s persona and communication without prejudice. If we must, we must reserve prejudice based on acts and ethics, not the way their brain talks.

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] We must discount Hillary’s responses to interviews because the content is written by speech writers and often is too familiar to listen to again. Nevertheless, over time and given the focus of her public service, her thoughts are fully contained in each sentence without the need for speculative content.

Moments that Shape Our Lives – Santayana

Every one of us at times has learned something from a person, a book, an event, a family circumstance, that changes who we are, what we believe, how we behave. Often the person is a mentor – someone who exposes a new awareness within us. Often the event is harrowing or of high achievement; an event that opens up new feelings about who we are and how we behave thereafter.

Knowledge is a frequent source that shapes our religion, philosophy, ethic, and introduces sophisticated perceptions about reality.

Mariner had an experience where knowledge from a book established his basic understanding of existence and reality and even today constitutes the foundation of his understanding of reality and the manner of human behavior.

When mariner was a young teen, his father was attending a Methodist seminary. One day his father brought home a textbook: “The Life of Reason, the Phases of Human Progress” by George Santayana. Mariner read the book with unusual interest; being a teenager, one’s mental attention more often is directed at social development and athletics. Amid those activities, mariner stayed with the book for a summer and finished it.

To avoid writing another tome, mariner will paraphrase George and express only the most significant points that have had a lasting influence on the mariner.

George was always about reason. There must be a reason for everything. He was suspicious of idealism. Assuming beliefs and myths as a permanent foundation for reality was an incomplete reality to George. George said that a rational morality has never existed in the world. One draws what morality exists from family life and is not universal in its definition.

George did believe that love was real and the most satisfying human experience. While believing love’s roots and its role in society was established in the family, he maintained love is the foundation beneath all social structures.

The pragmatic need for institutions and government outside the home justified politics but only weakly. George felt that equality among unequals is unachievable; he distrusted democracy as a fantasy of unequals. Government should be run by those who are capable but the population is not restricted in its interaction with the government. George dodges capitalism by stating that all citizens must be guaranteed equal opportunity.[1]

George said the American Dream was a fantasy; since the age of industrialism, materialism sits on the backs of citizens rather than citizens gaining a laissez-faire life.

Finally, George by definition was a metaphysical naturalist. Broadly speaking, everything that happens in reality is part of nature and automatically adjusts to interaction with other natural elements. Human behavior is a constantly adjusting phenomenon with other natural elements (reality). What does this mean in terms of ethics and morality? It means that ethics and morality are subject to the reality of the moment. A friend of the mariner once commented that under severe circumstances, cannibalism is moral.

George was an atheist. The closest he comes to godliness is his definition of reality as the cause of all events and conclusions, circumstances and behaviors. Yahweh was close but not the same.

Ancient Mariner

[1] For mariner, it is this section in the book that slowly has evolved into what he calls ‘sharing’. Another mentor is Will Rogers, who believed in equal sharing of profits. More about sharing will be in another post.

Still Visiting Nova

Mariner begins to understand the virtues of being a grandfather. He and his wife have lived a long life and have become wise in observing the Yin-Yang, the flow of timeless bonding, the energy of living an active life. Indeed, they have lived Joseph Campbell’s Arc of Life – the Hero’s Path. The wife still has many integrated experiences bonding with and caring for Nova. Indeed, she is welcome relief for our son and daughter-in-law.

Clothed in his veneration, the grandfather struggles to stay out of the way; he is welcome, included in conversation and has a seat at the dinner table. But grandfather is useless. The family dog, a large puppy, does not agree. Everyone, including the grandfather, are toys with which the puppy entertains herself. Grandfather made the mistake of sitting by the balcony door. His job is to open the door each time the dog wants to go on the balcony and when the dog wants to come back in. This whole process – in and out – takes about two minutes every ten minutes or so.

The noise level is louder than grandfather is accustomed; he wears hearing aids but the cacophony prevents clarity. Grandfather is useless.

Nova is a pleasant child who, like any three-week old, makes it clear that she is not satisfied with the situation. Grandfather realizes that everyone is born to be a King or Queen. As Nova speaks, the parents, dog, and wife leap into action.

Further, the family has two cats. They are silent stalkers and fight with the puppy. Grandfather feels for his son because he works at home.

The fact of the matter is grandfather has no role except to engage the dog – whether he wants to or not.

Nevertheless, this is a happy home. This is a socially active home. There is love all around. In fact, in a few weeks grandfather willingly will return when his daughter and her husband come to join the fray.

 

Ancient Mariner