Faith is a necessary life tool for everyone

Read these words from this old hymnbook favorite – sing along if you know the melody:

Life is like a mountain railway

With an engineer that’s brave

We must make this run successful

From the cradle to the grave

Watch the curves, the fills, and tunnels

Never falter, never fail

Keep your hand upon the throttle

And your eyes upon the rail

The verse asks for a commitment to an ideal, a belief that the run must be successful. A belief in what? It could be any religion’s doctrine; it could be any political vision; it could be a personal life or a person’s sustained commitment against fatal disease.

The point is that all thoughts and behavior of any merit require belief in a valued objective. The only instruction in the verse is completing the run and keeping one’s hand upon the throttle. Could this verse be applicable to Blackbeard the pirate’s belief in his role on the high seas? (Yes, mixed metaphor)

What is missing today is context. At the beginning of the verse, what does ‘Life’ imply? As an ethical compass, what is the world supposed to believe in – not just the United States but the entire world? The confrontation is universal: what is a gibbon to trust in a disappearing habitat; what is a fish living on a dying coral reef to accept as normal; what is the dictator of Kazakhstan to believe about his uncertain future; what about the broken and abused family in Nicaragua; what about the preacher in Kansas or the steel worker in Detroit; what about the billionaire CEO. With our hand on the throttle, where is the rail taking us?

More than at any time since nations have existed, we live in a time of social disruption and turmoil. The job of Homo sapiens is to decide where the rail will take us. Holding on to broken, outdated, even useless railways doesn’t help. The job of everyone around the world today is to build a new destination for our railway.

The hymn cited at the beginning was written in 1890 by gospel songwriter Charles Davis Tillman. He styled it for the repertoire of white southerners, whose music was derived from Gospel. Further verses reference the Bible as a source of context. Life in 1890 was from another time, another reality. Where is Life headed today?

[For several renditions of the hymn see: ]

Ancient Mariner

The Frontal Lobe versus Planet Earth

The frontal lobe is responsible for abstract thinking. It is the youngest and largest region of the human brain located just behind the forehead. While the rest of the brain abides by the normal mammalian genome adapted to Earth’s biosphere, the frontal lobe of a human brain is not bound by such mundane relationships.

In an exercise to pass time while sheltered, mariner developed an analog which eliminated conflict between humans and the biosphere by stepping backward in history until the conflict had yet to occur. An example everyone is aware of is the fossil fuel conflict. By tracking backwards to the point where the cause (a frontal lobe invention) did not exist, one can deduce the lifestyle, politics and what at that point would be compatible with the biosphere.

Herewith is a summation of the results:











Well, there it is. Humans get in trouble when they let the frontal lobe do its thing without respecting the rest of the simian brain and its agreeable relationship with Planet Earth.

So much for shelter-in-place.

Ancient Mariner


[1] The asteroid just hastened the end of a declining existence for the dinosaurs; Covid-19 tried hard to bring an end to humans but came up a little short. Humans will have to end it on their own.

Alas, Poor Uncle Sam


. . . I knew him, Horacio — a fellow of infinite jest… Where be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs?

– – – –

Mariner has become frayed and disillusioned wandering the foxholes and ditches of daily politics, economics and social conflict. It reminds him of those old news videos of doughboys running in the trenches of World War I. Mariner searches desperately for reason, cohesiveness and purpose.

Alas, the trenches of Somme are the nation’s reality. Cash replaces tear gas; international trade replaces cannon fodder; political dialogue replaces machine guns; technology replaces bombs and strafing. And now an accelerant, Covid-19, has introduced the urgency of a raging forest fire.

Not only is shelter-in-place an urgent pragmatism, it is a metaphor for our times; it is our trench.

Meanwhile, out on the battlefield, Covid-19 has expedited cultural change. It has made space for artificial intelligence to rush in and set new standards. It has disrupted political change from an incompetent form of democracy to one that relates to the battlefield. It has destroyed the nation’s economy.

More than a million soldiers were killed or wounded on the fields of Somme representing seven nations. It was brutally personal. Currently in the United States 23,000 citizens have died and the plague is still progressing. It is brutally personal.

Subtly, a new force has joined the war: global warming. As today’s global war of change fights its way into the future, as small steps of stability are put in place, global warming will attack across all fronts – politics, economics and society. Global warming will introduce a new dimension of destruction just as the atomic bomb did at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the United States today, political smoke fills the air, explosions erupt in the halls of government and reason dies under attack from greed, prejudice and moral decline. Yet, no different than the Battle of Somme, this time of great, historical change must continue to be fought. It is not nation against nation so much as it is faction against faction. It is the wealthy against the poor, the average, the good of all; it is the plutocracy of government fatally infected with cash and privilege; it is corporate America flushed with opportunity to monopolize society; it is data technology that will erase the idiosyncrasy of each citizen while all around this war the biosphere dies more rapidly every day.

Will reason, cohesiveness and purpose ever again exist? Will humanity survive? Is all this commotion part of the Sixth Extinction?

Ancient Mariner


The Twenty-first Century

Has the reader ever tried to walk on a railroad rail? It seems easy enough but it isn’t long before most walkers fall off. Now imagine that the rail isn’t still; it is slithering like a snake slithers through grass. Add to this unstable situation the fact that it is snowing hard along with a stiff wind. Finally, there is no choice but to walk this rail all the way to the reader’s home two miles away.

Welcome to the twenty-first century.

There have been terrible life ending moments in Planet Earth’s history. For example, around 439 million years ago, 86% of life on Earth was wiped out in an event called the Ordovician–Silurian Extinction – the first of five global extinctions. The most recent extinction, the Cretaceous-Paleogene brought on the extinction of dinosaurs. A combination of volcanic activity, asteroid impact, and climate change effectively ended 76% of life on earth 65 million years ago. As noted, there have been five such extinctions. Mariner has cited Elizabeth Kolbert’s book ‘The Sixth Extinction’ in earlier posts. Elizabeth claims that this extinction already is occurring.

She likely is correct in her assumptions: The International Union for Conservation of Nature reported more than 800 animal and plant species have gone extinct in the past five centuries. Today there are nearly 17,000 threatened with extinction.

Like snow falling on a shifting rail, add the issue of global warming. The Ordovician–Silurian Extinction had a similar situation but in reverse; the Earth grew very cold.

– – – –

What else is new for the twenty-first century? Not much of significance has been added to the world of economics since John Maynard Keynes (floating dollar) and Milton Friedman (free market) contributed early in the last century. In the twenty-first century, the world needs something new; the world economy is beginning to stumble; most economists believe there will be a worldwide recession any time now. Everything from a shifting of population age to the disappearance of earthly resources (Helium, gypsum, indium and rare earth minerals, (the last a vital ingredient in smartphones, hybrid cars, wind turbines, computers, etc.) just to name a few.

Further, it may be theories of territory are the elephant in the room of economics, that is, nations. The speed of the Internet and the power of computers have warped the timeline of economics, often running over small nations, nations without competitive economies and nations with limited natural resources.

Something else affecting world economy is the disappearance of natural conditions like unused land, fresh water and climate control due to abuses with fossil fuels and disregard for the needs of nature (estuaries, breeding grounds, etc.).

– – – –

Hmmm, what else is new for the twenty-first century? Oh yes – artificial intelligence. Can humans handle all this new stuff for the new century: extinctions, failing economy, global warming and do it all with massive changes in culture as well? There’s no choice, home is still two miles away.

Just months ago David Brooks, a political/economic pundit on PBS News Hour, wrote “The Second Mountain” which suggests that the nuclear family is a disadvantaged unit in modern times. Shall everyone revisit polygamy or return to communes? David makes a valid point that nuclear families, especially at lower income levels, do not have enough income to sustain a happy, rewarding life – whether it’s a home, salary, transportation, health or education. A simple insight: how many minimum wage earners take a vacation to a pleasurable place? Could they if there were four or five wage earners in the family?

Multiply the challenge to the nuclear family by taking away 80 percent of the jobs that support these families. This situation alone calls for a new economic theory and it isn’t capitalism, corporatism or free market.

– – – –

How about human privacy? When mariner was a young adult, he spent time at an Atlantic coast city. He learned that the city knew how many visitors were in town by the amount of waste water discharged. In other words, population was counted by how many folks were flushing toilets. At least the city didn’t know specifically that it was mariner using the toilet. Today, they know. If corporations and insurance companies have their way, they will know mariner ate too much bacon today and skipped his walk. His health insurance will cost more and he will have to pay for another automatic delivery of bacon with money he never personally controlled.

Welcome to the twenty-first century.

Ancient Mariner



Tick Tock

֎ From the desk calendars:

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift – Albert Einstein

֎ Name these famous people all of whom died on March 14:

֎ Rearrange this list of US Presidents according to ascending dates of term:

Benjamin Harrison

Martin Van Buren

Millard Fillmore

John Tyler

Only 234 days to the Presidential Election . . . . . .

Ancient Mariner


About Fingers

When mariner was a small boy, he had a conversation with his father. Mariner asked him how evolution worked. His father said that evolution was slow and that Nature had a way of always trying to make the body work better. He suggested that, in a zillion years, humans would have only three fingers on each hand because the ring and little finger weren’t used very often. Humans pick up things only with the thumb, forefinger and middle finger. He said that even when we grab something like a jar to open its lid, it’s the middle finger and thumb that do all the work.

Ever since, mariner has watched his fingers work with that thought in mind. It is true that in most circumstances we use only the thumb and two fingers. Of course there are many functions that use the entire hand – typing for example, or making a fist, or holding a wet, wriggly fish. Statistically though, the three fingers get the most action.

Mariner was reminded of this conversation recently when he watched a documentary about the many different cousins humans have in the primate branch of evolution. The Aye-Aye, a small nocturnal creature, has a middle finger that looks like a stick; it is much longer than the other fingers. It is a specialized trick of evolution that gave the Aye-Aye a tool to reach small insects under tree bark.

Mariner is sorry that his father didn’t live long enough to experience smartphones. There’s a good chance in the future that the human hand will merge together the last three fingers into one large pad-like finger. Only the thumb and forefinger will keep knuckles.

Ancient Mariner


Changing Times

Mariner made the mistake of watching Empire Games on Netflix. It is an excellent documentary series about how power abused the citizenry and how power exchanged hands from one king to another (assassination).

It was a mistake because mariner also is investigating the current transition from the industrial age to the computer age (Reagan Administration in 1981 to a time toward the end of the twenty-first century. The elimination of labor jobs in the United States caused by the NAFTA agreement in 1993 is comparable to the introduction of textile machinery that caused the Luddite revolt in 1811, considered the beginning of the industrial age).

Disturbingly, there are similarities between power transitions in the age of empires and power transitions today. Don’t rule out assassination:

Anybody here seen my old friend Abraham . . .

Anybody here seen my old friend John . . .

Anybody here seen my old friend Martin . . .

Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby . . .[1]

Anybody here seen my old friend John Lennon . . .

And almost, anybody here seen my old friend Ronald.

Every one of these assassinations is related directly to shifts in political power or shifts in economic direction. It turns out there is a pattern common between emperors and today’s leaders: accumulate political power – force change to culture – accumulate wealth – citizen rebellion – accumulate political power, etc. For emperors, accumulate wealth meant waging war to increase territory and economy. Today war has many manifestations.

Improved weaponry, communications and transportation in the twentieth century have allowed ‘accumulate wealth’ to be a global event. Wars in the computer age have newer methods; everybody wants to join in – even if, in the last decade, old-time explosives aren’t as important.

For example, in the old days of emperors, wealth was acquired through military action. Today, wealth is acquired through corporations. Even so, the procession to rebellion is similar. The proletariat is abused (just two examples: disappearance of steel manufacturing and Google); in a corporate sense, nations are colonized in pursuit of wealth; eventually the disadvantaged people revolt (note Brexit, Donald’s base, and Venezuela). As far as battle between ideologies and cultures, the computer and Internet are the weapons of choice. During WWII, planes dropped leaflets or nations broadcast radio programs. Today, advocates insert propaganda into social media. Today, in the computer age, the procession to rebellion can be provoked by inciting rebellion without firing a bullet or even having to travel to the target nation.

While the procession to rebellion has not changed for the moment, three significant events have curtailed military violence: the invention of nuclear weapons, acquiring wealth through corporations and the ease of invasion using just a smartphone. In effect, militaristic war is being pushed back to the days of parochial conflict.

– – – –

The other significant similarity between the age of emperors and the age of computers is economics. Setting aside for the moment the egomaniacal dictators and those who dream of being king, quality of life is a major provocation for rebellion.

The relationship between accumulating wealth and general quality of life is not absolute. For example, global weather cycles, plagues, and significant planet activity have nothing to do with the procession to rebellion but greatly affect quality of life. Still, lack of citizen quality can be interpreted as economic dissatisfaction.

The computer age brought with it a new economic engine: computers allowed corporations to become international. Manufacturing no longer was constrained by slow information or relatively high labor costs. Corporations found it more profitable to loosen the fiduciary laws of investment and become less accountable in their role as supporters of society. The transition to investment and away from manufacturing began in the Reagan administration during the 1980s. Since then labor has suffered as better paying jobs moved to more lucrative foreign labor markets; ignoring the role of supporting society has led to wage suppression in order to improve corporate profits; corporations aren’t sharing their profits. So much for trickle-down.

It is now forty years later. The proletariat suffers on every economic front from sustainable income to job security to housing to less than adequate health care. As the stock market rises to new heights, the economic challenge to the man on the street grows more intense. The time is ripe for the procession to rebellion to rise. Indeed it has started in the name of Donald’s base.

Just as in every stressed rebellion, those who can manipulate political advantage rise to power. Too often, these economic saviors have little empathy; they are eager to move to changing the culture and accumulating wealth for the powerful rather than the citizens.

There is a happy ending, sort of. The United States has been a democracy from its inception. That democracy, especially now, is far from perfect but it has allowed the nation – so far – to avoid the ravages of nations like Greece, Turkey, Brazil, Poland, Columbia, Venezuela and the entire Middle East to succumb to collapse and allow despotic leaders to shut down free society. Mind you, with the likes of Donald, these are scary times. Another term and the nation will join Turkey and the others.

As to how the procession to rebellion will occur in the future –

Ancient Mariner

[1] Dion DiMucci album released 2001

More on Great Divides

Sometimes it seems like mariner’s news sources have been reading mariner’s posts:

Businesses are leading the way on crises like climate change and health care, because institutions like media and government are no longer seen as ethical and competent, Sara Fischer writes from the 20th annual Edelman Trust Barometer.

“Business has leapt into the void left by populist and partisan government,” Edelman CEO Richard Edelman said.

-> But that’s only by default: 56% of the online survey’s respondents (34,000 people in 28 countries) said capitalism as it exists today does more harm than good in the world.

The survey, out today, shows a stark class divide — a growing gap in institutional trust between wealthier, more educated people vs. the rest of the population.

-> For the first time, a record number of developed countries — including Australia, France, Germany and the UK — are experiencing double-digit divides in trust between the informed class and the mass population. [Axios]

– – – –

The western world has emulated the Greek and Roman empires in magical similarity and has sustained their motivations as if time had stopped, carrying forward their principles of war, classism, politics and consumption economics.

But wait – is it time now for the Peloponnesian wars? Is Donald our Nero? Is it time for another Mount Vesuvius? Who will play the role of Attila? Who will be Alexander?

Will artificial intelligence emulate the dark ages? Will global warming purify humanity as the flood did in Genesis? Which new plague will erase millions of humans?

As the twenty-first century begins there is a scent in the air. It isn’t pleasant; more of a wafting that won’t dissipate. It doesn’t have an aroma of the Fullness of Time that is proposed by science and optimistic futurists; it seems more like a day in criminal court. Where is Apostle Paul when you need his reassurance?

It is sentencing time. Humans must pay for their casual dalliances with Mother Nature; humans must pay for raping the environment; humans must pay as the cause of the Sixth Extinction. In regard to the treatment of humankind it is time, in our contemporary emulation of Rome, for a sequel to the fall of Rome in 476 CE.

Ancient Mariner

The Biggest Great Divide

The last post on perception is a lead-in to this post about a great divide. What are our perceptions of the future – not the far future but starting now until 2050? An emerging perception is that millennials (born 1981 – 1996) will live their lives on the fence between two very different social and economic cultures. They will bear the burden of financially supporting both offspring and elders; their own careers and roles in society will be tumultuously tossed about and fraught with uncertainty.

Millennials started their lives in an Adam Smith world (he married capitalism to reformation ethics) and will end it in an economic and social world beyond description today – though many futurists believe the concept of ‘job’ will be divorced from Adam Smith’s marriage; artificial intelligence will disrupt existing class perceptions; Planet Earth will play havoc with resources from Helium gas to the disappearance of vast stretches of dry land, to a shift in weather patterns that will collapse significant agricultural markets.

Progressive economists suggest if the economy isn’t soon redistributed from its advantages to oligarchs, the US may experience rebellion similar to that in other countries in the news today. Data tech corporations are so pervasive and so uncontrolled that a new retail culture may evolve with a US Congress of self-appointed data tech CEO’s and Jeff Bezos as President. (mariner speculates)

Presuming all these hotspots of change may happen, what is the core cultural issue? What will people experience day-to-day? What persistent event will cause foment and disorder as society rewrites itself?

Greater than identity politics, greater than economic imbalance, greater than global warming – it is the educated versus the uneducated; the elite versus the useless; those who can participate in society and those who can’t.

These perspectives are not new. Social philosophers and futurists have suggested this great divide since the 1970’s. But today it is a fresh subject in journals, magazines and online science sites. There are characteristics of the divide that exist today. For example, those who accept that the successful will be successful and others never will be are the same people who don’t believe in welfare, Medicare and Social Security. In other words, if a person hasn’t made it, they are not allowed to have any value in society – they are useless even to themselves.

The French term is ‘raison d’êtra’, which means reason to be or role in life or in personal terms, why am I here? The feeling of uselessness is a struggle often among retirees, young adults without links to society, and especially those who by their class and education are denied the right to succeed or interact with the participating members of society. Psychologists long have defined the emergence of gangs in destitute neighborhoods as a result of not being allowed to participate in society therefore they create their own role within their neighborhood.

Society is only a decade from the first waves of white collar job loss. It is a common statistic that artificial intelligence may eliminate from fifty to eighty percent of jobs across every discipline, every skill, and every function that constitutes the ‘common workforce’ today. It does not help that income for middle and lower income people already is suppressed and hasn’t kept up with inflation. Donald’s base, suffering job loss and massive reduction in salary, is a current example of a segment of workers that has fallen on hard times and claim they are forgotten in today’s economy. Indeed they are.

As the months roll by, the issue of joblessness and especially the denial of the right to pursue happiness, success, etc., otherwise known as a raison d’êtra, will reach a breaking point where violence may be the proletariat’s only option.

The federal government has no choice even given polarized parties, wealth-driven politics and the cost of global warming, but to address joblessness which may be at a level commensurate with Venezuela today. The tax code, ensconced for generations as a capitalistic friend, must be dismantled in order to accommodate a very large portion of the US population.

Already in today’s democratic campaign for president, Andrew Yang has proposed a minimum income supported by taxes. A monthly distribution to citizens, especially those shut out of social participation, may be one way of preventing violence and stabilizing feelings of personal worth.

In a recent post mariner suggested that a new concept of having a job was to create a self-managed job. This is a job that a person assumes on their own for the good of their society. A pure example of this is a member of mariner’s family who has taken it on himself to improve the bare space around the base of trees along the sidewalk; he plants flowers and attractive greenery. He is satisfactorily employed but has taken on a role to improve his neighborhood. In the future, this approach to raison d’êtra will be a major way of defining work – and – it will need to be a source of income as well.

Another example is mariner’s neighbor who has chosen to maintain the gravel alley for his block. Again, income was not involved but, given the idea of a monthly distribution from the government, many otherwise unemployed citizens will find roles to play that will, mariner suspects, greatly improve the civility that is in short supply today.

If artificial intelligence and the corporations that control it are brought under control; if the tax structure shuts down abusive wealth and redistributes economic participation to the proletariat; if new job growth can be harnessed to deal with global warming; if international cooperation can be modified to support the economics of sustainability – maybe there will be some fun moments learning a new culture and new economics.

Ancient Mariner


The US has a bad transmission

The ol’ federal bus doesn’t move very well. The clutch is totally blown because legislators become more and more bound up in polarization, some want to shift gears, some don’t. Unengaged, the bus drifts down the road in neutral, ever slowing; other national buses rush by at the speed limit. Adding insult to injury, the gear box is a skip and miss experience even if the clutch worked.

Each gear tooth, a principled thrust applying torque to society, is bent, missing or warped. If the clutch worked, if the gear box worked, the bus at best would stutter and jump down the highway.

The sparkplugs, a vibrant electorate spark of energy and focus, are old and misfire, not knowing exactly when or even why they should energize their respective pistons.

The carburetor, instead of measuring and controlling the cash flow, leaks profusely, placing the whole bus in peril as hot spots grow and may combust even as the pistons run lean.

So it’s time to take the ol’ bus to the repair garage. A lot of work needs to be done:

The camshaft, sometimes called the Electoral College, causes misfiring. A better grease called National Public Vote (NPV) needs to be applied to restore smooth synchronization.

The valves are worn and should be replaced with newer, unified roles for state voting.

The clutch should be rebuilt with non-binding redistricting.

The entire transmission must be rebuilt with properly applied representation that synchronizes legislative energy with the sparkplugs.

Looking at the bus, many seats are missing and torn; there aren’t enough seats for every kind of rider that wants to go home.

No question new tires are needed that understand the meaning of “where the rubber meets the road.”

The repair had better be sound and functional; the storms of global warming are just down the road.

Ancient Mariner