The Beginning

May 4, 1970 was the beginning of mariner’s disillusionment with all things politic, including the citizens. His skeptical attitude remains with him today. It was the shooting to death of four Kent State college students and wounding of nine others by the Ohio National Guard. These assassins weren’t every day police, who even today can be expected to do such things; these were part of the Armed Forces of the United States.

Laurel Krause, whose 19-year old sister was killed, wrote on March 7, 2014 “It has been 44 years, and the U.S. government still refuses to admit that it participated in the killing of four young students at Kent State. There has not been a credible, independent, impartial investigation into Kent State. No group or individual has been held accountable.”

One can write all the US Constitutions they want; nothing constrains bias, prejudice and bigotry. The reaction of conservatives was that the students deserved it. They were the same bunch that today rebels against shelter-in-place. They were the same bunch that today rapes children while priests. They were the same bunch that today denies human value by denying health care to those who need it. They were the same bunch that today divides Christianity into racist and elitist factions. They were the same bunch that hoards wealth while thousands die in the US from starvation and disease. They were the same bunch that today elected Donald. They were and are the electorate.

Ancient Mariner

 

The Great Tool of Survival in Crisis: Displacement of Self

Oh-oh – mariner feels a sermon coming on. He’ll keep it short.

All the western religions except for a few voodoo and cult variations have a common core of belief. It is to love whatever is real, however it is defined, and to love other humans first before self. Love is at the core; one must interpret many extrapolations in religious literature only in strict contrast to love – not in terms of one’s preferences, biases or self-reasoned values.

Mariner will reference only one scripture: Matthew 19:16 ff.

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Mariner uses this particular scripture because it pits engrained capitalism in its greedy context against salvation. Of all nations, the United States lives by capitalistic principles – religious and otherwise. And rich means everyone; one is always better off than someone else.

Salvation means displacing self in favor of others. This is the hardest, most awkward, most irritating rule for religious followers. “Isn’t it enough that I have sympathy?” “Isn’t it enough that I give money?” “Isn’t it enough that I’m not a racist?” “Isn’t it enough that I keep a job when others don’t?”

Did the reader notice the subject, “I”? That is the flaw. There is no “I”. There is only “them” and “they”.

When there are hard times religion’s core principle of love becomes an important factor at the center of society. Continuing to promote self first will make the hard times worse. Hoarding, price gouging, buying and selling stock and property for gain only for selfish reasons not helpful to the greater good, taking opportunity away from others, leaving hardship at the foot of others, all fit the ethics of greed. Society will pay a harder price for these tactics. It may be in these times of pandemic that fatalities may be part of that price. It may be that the entire economy will collapse. It may be the United States may survive only as a second class nation among nations.

It is time to displace one’s self interest and ask, “What do they need?” Do they need money and resources?” “Do they need comfort and healing?” “How can they be helped?” and the hardest, “Do they need me?”

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Religion on the Internet

When Mariner arose this morning, stumbling and half-conscious as usual, He heard his wife singing a hymn. He went to her office to see what was happening. She was live streaming a worship service and singing along with the pastor who had a good voice and was playing a guitar. The hymn’s lyrics were in a box on the side of the screen.

In this age of pandemics, the pastor was sitting on a stool in front of the sanctuary in an empty church. A viewer had all the components of a service that can be performed by one person. During the sermon, while listened to attentively, his wife also was doing her morning exercises.

Faith lives in eclectic times.

Curious about how wide the selection of streaming services was, mariner launched his search engine to discover there were thousands of services from across the rainbow of denominations. If first impressions are meaningful, mariner felt the live streaming options were far better than the television offerings which were either Roman Catholic or salvation by money.

So one must consider, as the pews empty in these days, whether there is a larger count of attendees sans apportionments, budgets and behavioral overhead. Most readers have been aware of faithful elderly who watch, indeed contribute financially, to the TV worship services. Mariner is reminded of a Jerry Lewis movie back in the 1960’s where an elderly woman bought every item that was advertised on the television. Can one achieve faith from a screen?

Mariner knows a family that attended services regularly because they liked the preacher. When the preacher moved on, he continued to be available through live streaming. The family now goes to church in their living room.

This raises a question about doctrine. While commitment to live streaming is commended, how does a viewer apply doctrine?[1] One of the core issues in today’s society is the ‘practice’ of religion – that is, put your body and your money where your mouth is, if mariner may butcher an old idiom. What makes faith important is how it shapes a believer’s behavior among peers and society at large. The old fashioned word is evangelism or mission or works, practices that are disappearing in organized religion and, perhaps, letting the Internet in.

Mariner is pulling out some Elvis gospel for inspiration.

Ancient Mariner

[1] ‘Doctrine’ is a church word that means rules, like the Constitution is for the United States. In the New Testament look for Sermon on the Mount or the many parables defining Christian doctrine.

Church

Mariner had a conversation yesterday with a person of good mind and sound scruples. It started with the topic of Lent, which is upon us, but grew into a conversation about the contemporary Christian perception of ‘church’.

During Lent there are additional worship services, as there are for any special season in the liturgical calendar. Mariner challenged the role of the church today as a center for the promotion of what Jesus represented in the New Testament and what protestant founders like Martin Luther, John Wesley, John Smith and Jakob Amman perceived as the role of the church.

At the time of the Protestant Reformation, founders were adamant about submission to the spirit of God’s will. The central premise was to live life according to what God wanted rather than follow the will of false gods like wealth and self-aggrandizement. Mariner suggested that the modern church had lost its way; yielding to political authority (Pharisees), social gratification (pew Christians) and industrialized management of God’s will (name any protestant rule-setting authority).

Mariner proposed that the church, as a Christian entity, had the responsibility of evangelism, missions and social outreach – all of which are richly represented in the New Testament.

Mariner’s guest suggested that personal faith was more important than institutional (church) definitions; that the world today is not the world during Roman possession of Israel and not even the human reality of life during the Reformation. In essence, the guest was suggesting that morality and social responsibility is a condensation of the social psyche; the tools were sympathy, empathy and fairness.

Mariner suggested this was faith as a derivative of existentialism, that is, faith was a modernly equipped sailboat drifting with the weather rather than sailing with a rudder and predefined destination. The guest countered that at this moment in the twenty-first century there is no social destination, that morality is a response to a society in flux that has no traditional interpretation of social justice – let alone theological perceptions.

– – – –

A fascinating conversation for sure. The conclusion for mariner and the guest is that the traditional church of even one hundred years ago no longer exists. The doctrinal strength of Christianity does not meet the need of people in today’s topsy-turvy world. Even traditionalists who stand by the rituals of the church use the church for other reasons related to self-assuredness in a shifting society, a rule of thumb for responsible behavior in an existential world and even as a tool to joust with the political influences of government and as social standing in the community. This does not suggest that Christian responsibility is not practiced; togetherness, charity and authority as expressions of humanness are everywhere.

It is not an easy time in history to know what theologically-based faith requires. Is another reformation due?

Ancient Mariner

 

The Bible (Christian)

The great dilemma for all religions since World War II days is that local society over much of the world became aware of the international world. Adding to the dilemma was the broadening awareness through television in the 1950s. Worldwide communication became available inside the home when the Internet grew in the 1980s and broadband came along in 2000. Today, 5G technology in an instant will provide all the information of the entire age of humankind in one’s handheld device.

Since the first recorded goddess Cybele six thousand years before Jesus, religion has been the link between the suprahuman forces that shape reality and the personal worth of humans within that reality. In the earliest years, lack of correct understanding required that worth be linked through myth – stories that were based on personal experience, empirical reality and a functional relationship with the suprahuman forces.

Being anthropomorphic creatures, humans have been required to translate the forces of reality into anthropomorphic value systems. Simply stated, rules of godly behavior had to be defined in human terms requiring personality, motive and human-centric cause and effect. Reza Aslan, a well-known contemporary theologian, suggests that in order to be meaningful, one’s god must be very much like one’s self.

The most important role of religion is to establish human scruples and morality in a way that is compliant with the rule of God. This is where the Torah (Judaism), Bible (Christianity), Qur’an (Islam), Puranas (Hinduism) and Tripitaka (Buddhism) become important. These holy works articulate the rules that bind self, society and God into a way to understand the relationship between universal reality and human reality. These works integrate myth, existentialism and personal feelings into a working structure that defines theology, doctrine and ritual (who is God, what are the rules, how do I comply).

It is rare, indeed very rare, that studying the Bible to understand Christianity one begins by breaking the content into commentary about theology, doctrine and ritual. Most frequently, individuals start by reading the Torah (Jewish holy works). The myths of Genesis are learned without consideration of modern knowledge. One is exposed to continuous allegorical descriptions of faith easily misconceived as historical.

As the new student moves through the Old Testament, they learn that God is a personal creature who has human prejudices and acts accordingly directly with human history. Hence the common belief that it is God that bequeaths touchdowns, wealth, and behavioral worthiness. The New Testament part of the Bible (Christian) suggests that God is not so personal but rather is a creative force called love – universal, all-encompassing love. One does not need to part the Red Sea to demonstrate God’s acceptance; one does not suffer the variabilities of God as Job did. One needs, not so simply, to create love in God’s manner and if one fails, God’s love, ever present, forgives transgressions.

The major issue about the Bible is that today virtually no one reads it or has read it. Having no knowledge of religious content – in any holy work – leaves an individual on their own to fathom virtue in today’s hodgepodge world. Speaking simplistically, just as Cybele gave way to Roman mythology and Roman mythology gave way to Christian mythology, what will replace Christian mythology?

In mariner’s post “The Age We Live In” (February 9), mariner quoted Mike Allen saying, “we are aging, comfortable and stuck, cut off from the past and no longer optimistic about the future, spurning both memory and ambition while we await some saving innovation or revelation, growing old unhappily together in the light of tiny screens.” Is this a symptom of lack of myth, a loss of guidance in today’s version of suprahuman forces? Is there something to which humans can tie their worth in the universe?

God knows.

Ancient Mariner

Comebacks for 12/1

A few comments were made by readers generally suggesting that the dissection of Republican versus Democrat into a list of separate issues still amounted to Republican versus Democrat.

֎ While it is true that the headings consistently were presented as republican first and democrat second, the variables that delineate the issues are not based on party. Each item requires very different amounts of time to be resolved, requires different modifications to government process, cultural modifications, cost, changes to the Constitution, disruption for business and taxation and even a public change in attitude and ethos. This is not a list that can easily be bundled into a party platform. Each party, given the entire list, could possibly break into different camps of acceptance; remember the Freedom Caucus, the libertarian wing of the Republican Party?

֎ South America? Where did that come from? Two variables dominate international coalitions: economic opportunity and geography. Both variables are in play at the same time. A visible example of both is China’s Belt and Road vision that unites every nation in Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Still, China sees many opportunities for economic development in Canada, Mexico, South America and the Pacific Rim – including Australia.

Might the US take advantage of geography in a similar manner? Does the reader remember there is a ‘Belt and Road’ that already exists in the Americas called the ‘Pan American Highway’ that runs from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego at the bottom of South America? This is not to suggest the US forget about economic markets and longtime allies; but geography cannot be ignored. What would be the strength of the US economy if Canada and Mexico were more dependent on China?

Shortsightedly, just yesterday Donald added punishing tariffs on Argentina and Brazil, two countries struggling economically. Donald isn’t shrewd enough to think of these tactics on his own; let’s start a conspiracy theory that Putin told him to do this. Oh well, South America can always turn to Russia for salvation. Remember that Putin sent a military unit and two nuclear bombers to Venezuela to protect dictator Nicolas Maduro and recently confirmed that he is willing to send more troops to the South American country to support the regime.

Didn’t the US learn its lesson with Cuba? Apparently not.

Mariner finds it entertaining that China’s Belt and Road is identical to the Interstate highway program approved by the Eisenhower administration (1953-61) and will have the same effect of merging interstate commerce.

֎ Two items, Restrictive doctrine v humanism and Public myth v existential pragmatism, are more in the hands of the public. These items are based on cultural standards set almost completely by social ethic.

Simply, the restrictive doctrine issue deals with the church’s application of religious ethics – having virtually nothing to do with political parties although there is a struggle keeping church and state apart. Not so simply, changes to cultural (as opposed to legislative) beliefs, i.e., guns, racism, work ethic, social accountability, and other myths that resist unification of a national identity, are very much a matter of reeducation and public willingness to subsume mythical influence into one-for-all ethics.

֎ Although this item isn’t part of the list, it is worth noting:

In September, Tennessee State Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield, BS, Lipscomb U.) declared that he wanted to eliminate higher education (presumably only for women, because of abortion) which would “end a liberal breeding ground” and save America. [DAILY KOS]

Thanks for reading.

Ancient Mariner

No, it isn’t just Republican versus Democrat

Mariner began to realize that there are many political battlefronts occurring simultaneously none of which can be melded easily into other battlefronts. In fact, righting the ship of state may be more like herding cats than the public expected. Below mariner lists some conflicts that require more than two hands to untangle.

Corporatism v democratic socialism

This conflict centers on the apparent corporate freedom to do whatever it wants to do and to turn as much profit as possible without accountability for social conditions or national unity. A complicated issue is that data tech corporations are introducing commercialized authoritarianism largely because antitrust laws have not been enforced.

Libertarian government v public accountability government

This conflict engages those who believe less government is better government – to the extent that social viability (AKA discretionary funding) is unacceptable versus those who believe in a government that is responsible for public wellbeing. One obvious confrontation is health services.

Capitalism v government oversight

A struggle over who manages the economy, taxes, monetary legislation, price regulation, inflation, antitrust and similar fiscal privileges; focused more on wealth and investment than on business practices. Two critical issues are part of this confrontation: housing and the Green New Deal.

Restrictive doctrine v humanism

This battle involves morality issues like abortion, LGBTQ and church versus state. Freedom of religion, even though clearly stated in the Constitution, remains constricted for faiths other than Christianity; within Christianity the battle is about interpretation of traditional doctrine versus current culture.

Political expediency v scientific expediency

This issue pits politicians against scientists. The most important issue is the conflict between the fossil fuel industry and global warming, which is made more disruptive because it also affects most of the economic/social issues cited above. This category seeps into areas like vaccination, abortion, environment, pollution of the land and water and ideological issues similar to how to feed 11 billion humans and preserving the planet’s supply of fresh potable water.

Public myth v existential pragmatism

Primarily this is the battle over fake news. Not just fake news on the airwaves and social media, which is significant, but common class prejudices about standards for justice, work ethic, racism, and about conspiracy theory amid several rootless assumptions. A major public myth is the common misinterpretation of the Second Amendment (gun rights) – proving not to be pragmatic in today’s society. Racist immigration policy is another issue that seems not to be pragmatic.

Isolationist v internationalist

This conflict has been severely damaged by Donald for no reason. The twenty-first century will have a widespread restructuring of international coalitions; China is emerging as the new powerhouse economy; NATO and other mid-1900 alliances are showing their age. An example of how internationalism is important is to note how critical it is for the US to represent political and economic security both for North and for South America – where China already is attempting to play that role while the Donald immigration doctrine is abusing Central and South American citizens.

Plutocracy v democracy

The battlefront in this section is how the government functions as an institution. Related issues deal with voting rights, gerrymandering, money in politics, entrenched lobbying, term limits, balanced congressional representation in the Senate, etc.

Add to all these battlefronts regional differences, population density, cost of living differences and classic prejudice between social classes.

So much to do with a citizen’s vote.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

A Nation Coming Apart

Mariner finds this letter to subscribers a very important and astute perspective of the state of the nation at this point in history. There are so many imminent, huge shifts in every aspect of the world’s situation. The US is vulnerable to life changing circumstances that may end the nation as we know it.

This topic is carried out in detail in the forthcoming The Atlantic Magazine.

This is not an advertisement but a tribute to the goals of a first class magazine.

 

A Nation Coming Apart

Jeffrey Goldberg

Editor in Chief, The Atlantic

The 45th president of the United States is uniquely unfit for office and poses a multifaceted threat to our country’s democratic institutions. Yet he might not represent the most severe challenge facing our country. The structural failures in our democratic system that allowed a grifter into the White House in the first place—this might be our gravest challenge. Or perhaps it is the tribalization of our politics, brought about by pathological levels of inequality, technological and demographic upheaval, and the tenacious persistence of racism. Or maybe it is that we as a people no longer seem to know who we are or what our common purpose is.

This dispiriting moment was the backdrop, and the impetus, for The Atlantic’s new special issue, what we have called “How to Stop a Civil War.” We don’t believe that conditions in the United States today resemble those of 1850s America. But we worry that the ties that bind us are fraying at alarming speed—we are becoming contemptuous of each other in ways that are both dire and possibly irreversible.

By edict of our founders, The Atlantic is meant to be the magazine of the American idea. In November 1857, when our first issue was published, the American idea was besieged by the forces of slavery. The Atlantic, then as now, stood for American unity, but it also stood for the idea that America is by its nature both imperfect and ultimately perfectible. The untiring pursuit of a more perfect union is at the core of the American idea.

When I discussed the notion of this issue with the editors of our print magazine, we reached the conclusion that any Atlantic journalism confronting questions of American unity and fracture would have to be both analytical and prescriptive, and would require the services of some of America’s best writers and thinkers.

– – – –

In addition to the printed magazine, see: https://www.theatlantic.com/

If one could move out to space far enough and could unfold the planet into some kind of Mercator map, the colors of war, dissent, economic instability, cultural decline and global warming would obscure the continents and the oceans with the tumultuous colors of an explosion.

Indeed these are not normal times; the scope is hard to document in daily news. One characteristic of the Internet is that nations aren’t really isolated by distance or geography. What happens in the many places of the globe immediately affects the many places of the globe.

At the moment, the United States suffers the incompetence of a president who is no more than a symptom of deep-rooted conflict that has quickly eroded the essence of Americanism – so much so, it may not be reparable in its traditional perception.

In the US, we must stop focusing on hoarding pennies and elitism and turn our focus to the horizon. Consider the planet similar to the California and Australian fires; except that it is not forests being destroyed, it is humanity.

The black plague from 1347 to 1351, just 4 years, killed over 20 million people and changed society in the western world. This is a similar time – a global crisis that so far has not drawn together a global team that can avoid disaster. Many nations prefer to contribute to the mayhem with parochial, destructive priorities that are irrelevant to the future of the human species.

Ancient Mariner

AI

Mariner doesn’t know how to say this but . . . Donald’s base is wiser than most of the US citizenry. The base understands the future and is trying its best to thwart it – in the nation’s behalf as well.

Every world citizen should view the latest FRONTLINE presentation on Artificial Intelligence (AI). It won’t be idle entertainment and it takes a couple of hours. But the reader’s existence in the future is revealed.

Click https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/in-the-age-of-ai/ . Pay attention, think, stay awake – it isn’t a sit-com.

Ancient Mariner

Of God and Country

It seems that an individual selects one’s God and one’s candidate in similar fashion. In these modern religious times, scriptures are less a source for describing god; most believers settle for a God that is very much like them but whose authority is absolute. The same is true with candidates for elected office. Study after study has shown that, in the final analysis, a voter selects the candidate with whom they are most comfortable – the candidate most like them.

A major issue is that the selection process has no absolute, agreed-to plan. One can’t plan God’s will; one can’t plan an elected official’s will. So there is no plan. There are whims and fancies, even a structured belief about what may happen but there is no agreed-to plan.

There never will be a plan. Authority is an individual vice, self-serving and even in its most gracious moments, self-directed. This is why most universal issues, e.g., the fossil fuel industry, discount what others may desire or have insight into – “it’s the money, stupid.”

Just as money yields to more money, power yields to more power. The advantage of God is that God already has all the power and in an orderly way distributes power to all existence – whether it is what voters choose or not – hence global warming. In today’s confusion corporations and technology, both unfettered by meaningful regulation or conscience, seem to have a power approximating God’s. The framework of morality, accountability, fairness and all the other words that constitute human wellbeing are not part of their plan. Like a kindergartener playing with blocks, the attitude is ‘if we can do it, do it’ without consideration to its ramifications.

Mariner, like everyone else in this new century, is caught in the maelstrom. His compass is tossed about by disruptions in his human magnetic field; his vision is blurred by the smoke of confusion and disorder; his personal hopes and dreams are stifled by interruptions and blockages of discord.

Mariner welcomes you to this century. Pick your candidate as carefully as you pick your God – there is no plan.

It is time for a haiku:

Haze rests on the grass.

Squirrels frolic in the trees.

Life starts a new day.

 

Ancient Mariner