Touching

Many years ago, mariner wrote a paper about touching. The recent surge of “Me Too” responses from abused women has sparked several conversations that, on the whole, attempt to establish boundaries and definitions about sexual contact and the larger sphere of touching in general.

The premise of mariner’s paper is that touching others is an important bonding gesture. Obviously, unwarranted touching related to sexual expression is not the type of touching under discussion. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath!

Mariner’s paper is titled “Elderly life – the Touching Desert.”

Consider a typical childhood: parents and children constantly hug, fondle, kiss, touch and otherwise take positions where one is in physical contact with another. How often has one seen a small child hugging its mother’s leg while she is having a conversation? Touching is critical to the development of self-confidence and assuredness that one is loved and appreciated without judgment.

Touching is governed by social circumstance. Lovers have a liberal collection of moments when affection for each other is assured or when reassurance is needed, or simply to acknowledge one another in passing. Consider the holidays when the family gathers together: hugging all around, affectionate posturing, and often an actual need just to make contact; these gestures are a form of renewing the bond between family members. Imagine if everyone visited for the holidays but there was no physical contact between them. An observer would sense that something is wrong.

The geographic region also has an effect on the manner of touching. Mariner wrote his paper while living in a large city on the East Coast; the manner of touching was more easily accepted and one may even feel rejected if they were not touched in a meaningful way, for example a hug and lingering touch on the shoulder. In a social situation, sitting on a sofa together, touching shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip was de rigeuer.

The Midwest is more sensitive about touching – especially in rural areas. Not everyone, of course, but for a notable percentage, a hug when greeting is executed with as little actual touching as possible. If someone touches an arm for a moment or takes a hand to have a conversation, these gestures are noticeably disconcerting. Mariner surmises that the intimate circle, that is, the foot and a half space around one’s body, cannot be encroached upon for suspicion of ulterior motives – whatever they may be.

The paper makes the point that minimizing or even preventing touching establishes isolationism in an individual. Socialization becomes a practiced dance that excludes reinforcement of acceptance from and appreciation for others. An invisible wall eliminates any ‘heart-felt’ feelings one may want to express or have expressed to them. It makes the point, too, that the elderly, simply by their less engaged life style, are victims of isolation because they are seldom touched in an expressive manner. A firm, dare mariner say, an engaging hug will link a mutual bond for a long time. In recent years, men have learned to have expressive hugs with other men. Surely this helps civilization.

Mariner remembers distinctly a family situation where the family gathered for a holiday. The grandfather was at least a generation older, slower moving, and less expressive. Most family members greeted the grandfather in a minimal, respectful way until the four year old great-grandson ran up to the grandfather with open arms to be swept up in a warm greeting. The grandfather came to life as if a light switch had been turned on.

Touching, especially meaningful hugs, is important – especially for the elderly.

Ancient Mariner

 

Year’s End

As many do, mariner is reviewing the good, bad and ugly of 2017. This is not easy with Amos helping. In fact, while mariner searches for gems to rescue, skeptic Amos is on his third typed page of atrocities; mariner concedes there is a large amount of bombed rubble. Poking about for good thoughts, mariner provides a potpourri of memories from 2017.

It was a good year for gardening. A steadily warming spring provided lush blooms from early bulbs. Two rose bushes that appeared lost emerged from their scruffy roots in late spring. Rabbits are at a notable low; very few have been seen on our side of town. The summer was dry (typical of the Midwest) but watering by the gardener kept things green.

Mariner was able to return to hosting his annual turkey Fry in August which in turn required him to clean his shop to serve as a shelter should inclement weather occur. This meant moving his 16-foot sailboat outside, which meant he had room to reorganize his workshop, which meant many overdue house projects could be addressed in the coming winter months.

Speaking of house projects, mariner and his wife have begun replacing the windows of his house built in 1954.

Mariner abandoned the gossip-prone cable news channels and selected PBS news and Face the Nation as his primary news sources; this has proven to be healthier as well as more factual and certainly more relevant. In addition, he still reviews Internet sources of proven quality and hand picks certain informational broadcasts on Saturday and Sunday.

Mariner became a grandfather in September – a fine daughter of Lake Woebegone stature. Mariner suspects her post-pubescent years will visit confrontation on her parents much as her father did with mariner and his wife.

Relative to the rural Iowa life her parents experience, mariner’s daughter and son-in-law live the high, sophisticated life of Hollywood – very much urbane in comparison.

Mariner’s advice to everyone is to be sure not to miss the magic of the holiday season. It is important to your mental health to set aside the tribulations and anxieties brought in 2017. Toss them aside until after the holidays. Have some down home fun. Remember any of your relatives? Is your old neighborhood still around? Be receptive to normalcy.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Migration – the Great Culture Changer

Mariner was watching the weekend television information shows, which are informative shows, not news shows. He noticed a comment, just one sentence on GPS, the Global Public Square with Fareed Zakaria, that today virtually the entire planet suffers the pressure of large migrations of humans.

The comment prompted mariner to remember migration as a major culture changer. Humans have had major migrations since prehistoric times. 60 thousand years ago a great migration of early humans left Africa likely due to a major climate shift. It was responsible for starting populations in every direction in Europe, the Middle East, and east into India and Southern Asia. That migration certainly brought change to Europe as immigrants overwhelmed the resident Neanderthal population and essentially replaced them. In the process, newer hunting methods and different social capabilities brought a different culture to Europe.

15 thousand years ago, a short ice age caused another migration into Northern Asia and eventually across the Bering Strait to populate North and South America.

10 thousand years ago improved farming induced a population explosion that added more immigrants into Europe and Asia and down to Australia.

Migrations are launched because of imbalances in safety, food, disruptive weather and overcrowding. The Middle East has suffered two great droughts – suffering the latest one since 1998. Today’s drought in the region is 50% drier than the last drought 500 years ago and the driest in 900 years.

Today’s drought shows no signs of letting up and continues south into Northern Africa where government conflict and social unrest continue to grow.

As a result, migration continues to grow.

Given the patterns of migration in human history, natural drought patterns are the most common cause and likely are intensified by climate change. Cultural stress disrupts governments leading to revolution, terrorism and rampant populism. Unlike Sub-Saharan Africa where 20 million face starvation, the Middle East has oil. The vagaries of imbalance as seen in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen and Iran have launched a migration from that region. Combine the Middle East migration with other migrant groups from South and Central America and cultural change seems a certain experience in our future – virtually guaranteed in Europe.

The US is experiencing homophobic behavior because Donald promotes it. His base, those who feel they are being pushed out, easily adopt homophobic behavior. However, immigration is not a bad thing. In fact, the US is far better off as “the great melting pot” than it would be otherwise. Besides, in a nation of 350 million, even a million immigrants will not have a disruptive effect but they may, as in past US history, contribute to positive change. If for no other reason than rebalancing the lopsided US demographic profile, they should be welcomed.

– – – –

Don’t blame the turmoil of cultural change just on immigration. Toss in computerization, the internet, and the devious smartphone. The smartphone is eliminating the rich culture based on human-to-human contact and virtually eliminates group processes like clubs, community service, a strong sense of self and an absence of accountability to one’s community. The net result is a culture of blasé. From whence do we derive our ethics, morals, compassion and empathy? These are the energies that make us human. A photograph on Facebook does not make one a living, incorporated human being.

Perhaps being responsible to care for our new immigrant citizens will reset our human values.

Blasé is bad.

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

 

Mariner became a Grandfather today

Her name is Nova. It is a celebration by the family, definitely a high point of the year. Many acts of recognition and admiration will occur this year and many years to come.

Mariner has mixed feelings about the term ‘grandfather.’ In Japan there is a practice wherein old, wise men – elderly judges, politicians, heroes and the like – are recognized, indeed revered for their wisdom and leadership. With great ceremony they are elevated to special stature where their wisdom can be available to the society when needed. Trouble is, no one ever asks them anything. In reality, they are removed from participation in daily life. Perhaps too much wisdom spoils the pot…

The US has a term ‘grandfathered in’ originally used to exempt poor voters from new restrictions on voting during Reconstruction (still occurring). The term is used when something is out of date but because it is difficult to ignore or dismiss, it is included with a newer topic that really is about something else. So it is that mariner has been grandfathered in.

Readers are familiar with the sport equivalent called the Hall of Fame. Very much like the Japanese version, outstanding athletes are given a high court send-off to revered photograph galleries – implying if not actually saying, “You can’t play well anymore but we remember when you could.” No one ever drafts these sport heroes for a current game.

One conjures that in earlier civilizations where an extended family of several generations constituted a tribe or band, the older wiser men were revered and central to the function of the organization. Alas, this is not the case. Note this quote from the Behavioral Sciences Department, Palomar College:

“… Band leaders generally have temporary political power at best, and they do not have any significant authority relative to other adults. They can give advice and propose action, but they do not have the formal authority to require others to accept their decisions.”

So mariner is a grandfather. He needs to find an acceptable photograph for the family Hall of Fame.

That is as it should be. The most important item is Nova – the new generation, the new hope, the new future participant in human society – Nova, mariner’s new granddaughter.

Mariner advises his son – one day he will be a grandfather.

Ancient Mariner

A Better Reality

It is important to keep the mind flexible – especially as one grows older. The best way to keep the mind flexible is to have an interest that provides continuous learning and insights. It has been said all along that being fluent in more than one language freshens one’s perspective about life and keeps the brain working with a bit more empathy than would otherwise be the case. One has a different opinion of folks like Bush 43 and other public figures when they can converse comfortably in another language. “What experiences have they had that aren’t part of everyday American?” one may ponder.

Mariner spent some time in Taiwan. The language was Mandarin with a heavy draw – similar to the Deep South, New England, and the ‘Valley’ in California. While he was there, he learned to order a meal awkwardly and perform simple protocols. A year afterward the words had disappeared. For this reason, that is, the difficulty of learning a language and sustaining a lexicon and grammar, mariner suggests immersing oneself in a different culture. Our brains aren’t the same brains that learned language as a two and three year old.

There are as many cultures as there are nations (195). Many have similar cultures influenced by larger nations and surrounding geography. Here are two or three that definitely have preeminent cultures that will never run out of insights, surprises, and intriguing behaviors:

China – a totally different cultural history. One will learn tidbits (China had the first movable type printing press in 1040 during the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127) and cultural differences (public urinals next to sidewalks in remote regions; China and India are competing with one another over who has the most flush toilets – a sign of modernity).

India – again a different culture – perhaps even more intriguing than China. Did you know that the North Eastern Region (NER 101,248 square miles), did not have a government until it was incorporated into India’s central government in sections from 1947 through 1972? What was daily life like without a government? We can only dream… India has six distinct religions (Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism). Imagine the daily conflicts between protocol and belief and the hierarchy of animals some of whom may be your relatives! The US can’t handle one of the six.

Most have heard of Mayans, Aztecs and Incas. All are early civilizations in Central and South America. But what about Caral-Supe? Caral-Supe is the earliest civilization in the region existing from 3000-2500BC. There are many more before the Maya and the Inca. The Aztecs, at their peak when the Spaniards came, weren’t around until 1430-1521AD.

The wonder of the Internet is that it is an endless encyclopedia. Using search engines like Google and Bing among many, name a subject, it’s on the Internet – especially in Wikipedia. Even richer resources are on web sites supported by nations, universities, governments and retailers of books, artifacts, furniture, clothes, jewelry, video and anything else that may expand one’s awareness of a different culture. The peak experience is taking a vacation trip to the culture of choice.

Studying a different culture will open the mind to the fact that not everything has to do with Donald or his id, the Mooche. Not everything has to do with the United States – in its own right a distinct culture.

The trick is to immerse one’s awareness completely into the chosen culture. Mariner is intrigued by a simple reality that doors are too short for modern folks when historic homes are visited in England. What other idiosyncrasies will broaden our reality?

Ancient Mariner

Dry Rot

Do you know what dry rot is? Have you ever seen old wood that looks like wood but is hollow because there is no pith left? Have you ever lifted what seemed to be a piece of cloth but it crumbled into a dry powder in your hands? Have you ever found an old box of cards exposed to dampness and when you tried to read them they would fall apart in fragile disarray? It is a condition of decay. It looks okay until one tries to use it in a useful way. Suffering from dry rot, it is not up to the task. It is a ghost, an ash of its creation.

Humans are susceptible to the same decay.

We work from day to day surviving the constant pressure that wears us down until one day we are in dry rot. We look human; we look functional; we feel we are the substance of our birth. But we are a ghost who breathes, eats, pontificates, and pretends to be valuable. We are just dry rot. Called to task, we crumble into uselessness.

This is too bad. Just as in material things, there are defenses to prevent dry rot in ourselves. Just as we seek to prevent rust in our tools; just as we maintain our houses; just as we maintain functionality in our vehicles; just as we maintain static rituals that keep order in our lives – we can introduce defenses that keep our lives rich and full and pliable against the vagaries of living. We can avoid dry rot to our last day.

One way is to keep the mind flexible. Deliberately pursue new ideas that test your opinions. Deliberately allow yourself to be confronted by social progress. Deliberately investigate the value of lifelong beliefs. Deliberately pursue new physical experiences and challenges. Dry rot cannot accumulate in the presence of newness.

Another avenue is to pursue new information as literally as you pursue physical fitness. The precursor to intellectual flabbiness is lack of intellectual exercise. The best avenue is reading. Television will draw you away; Internet will draw you away; weariness will draw you away. Where can you find new nutrients to prevent the emptiness of dry rot?

The answer is both far reaching and personal. As a simple example of maintaining flexibility in our contemporary lives, the mariner and his wife scramble for first read of the Atlantic magazine. We have observed that the Atlantic, along with the New Yorker magazine, Scientific American and an array of Internet websites, provide us with a constant barrage of new ideas, new reports on a rapidly changing culture, new interpretations of old, dare we say sacrosanct rituals, and new views of the future that emerge beneath our feet.

Using the technology of broadcasting, deliberately check in on other news channels besides NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox. One would be surprised at the perspectives of news channels sponsored by China, Great Britain, Arabic broadcasting and European news networks. Even Canada has a different slant on the importance of news.

Certain channels like Bloomberg offer educational programs that broaden one’s understanding of the world. Exploring newness is the best defense against dry rot – even new physical experiences.

The mariner can attest that age is an ally of dry rot. It makes the challenge of being a purposeful human being in the world even greater. One must overcome frailties; one must garner strength from task to task. But one should never allow retreat from an active life about which to take control.

At the other end of the spectrum, the young have no perspective on the amount of energy wasted on frivolousness. The young must discipline themselves to ask what the future holds and how they will play a role. They, too, will be challenged by the willingness to recede into dry rot.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Do we at least still love our mothers?

In one way or another, the past three posts deal with H. sapiens’ relationship with the physical world. Other post series deal with H. sapiens’ treatment of fellow humans and some deal with how H. sapiens has allowed the machine ethic to take over theology, government, economic priority over life, and morality.

Just to highlight each subject:

Humans have started the sixth major extinction of life in the history of the planet.

Humans have destroyed the orderliness of the planet’s biosphere to the point humans will join other creatures in unnecessarily becoming extinct with them.

Humans have chemically altered the chemistry of the planet sufficiently to receive their own geologic epoch – the Anthropocene Epoch; Geologic epochs usually last two or three million years but humans ended the Holocene Epoch after just 11,500 years.

Economics continually grows more abusive to the planet population as international scope and computerization focus on an intense gathering of wealth for the few and in addition, without conscience increase the hardship on the quality of life for the rest.

Similarly, governments support corporate interests and refuse to openly and fairly care for all their citizens equally.

The measure of human worth and virtue is measured in dollars.

In sociology, a machine is any entity that is used to more easily achieve a goal. Machines can be a hammer, sunglasses, nuclear weapons, governments, organizations and prejudices. Humans have replaced religion with machines. Life according to a higher plane of existence and transcendent ethos is disappearing very rapidly. Today, it’s the machines that dictate morality.

Mariner believes this is overwhelming evidence that religion has been obliterated in the West; the East is catching up quickly. People today have lost faith in themselves which is what religion is all about. People chase the machines. It is a plastic world with no ethos, no reward for life, and no intrinsic value for achievement.

Consequently, the mariner will offer a generic religion starter kit for those who feel the absence of spiritual happiness.

 

RELIGION STARTER KIT

First, you need a god. How you envision god is very, very important. Many of you are aware that several practicing religions forbid any image of god – not even writing a name for god. There are two reasons for this: first, god has no shape; god is not a thing. God is a state of perfect being. Second, you can’t worship images, not even presumptions of images. The Jews call this Baal worship. The Christian Bible cites god in several places saying “you will have no other gods before me.” That includes pictures and words of god; they truly don’t look like god at all[1]. God is a singularity. This will have meaning in a moment.

Many religions have the same creation story where god creates a perfect world in a special location. God puts a male and most often a female at the location and they do something they aren’t supposed to do. This creation story is very important to the manner in which we utilize god in our lives. The story establishes something called ‘duality.’

Duality is a condition of existence. Everything – everything – has two or more sides or values. Examples: start and stop; top and bottom; light and dark; far and near; man and woman; good and evil, and so on. Do not try to find an exception. There is only one exception: god. In perfection, god cannot have more than one state of being. God by definition is a singularity.

Duality is our opportunity to sense more than one value for something. To move through life, we are constantly bombarded with things which require us to judge the correct value. In the area of religion, this judgment is about good or evil values; whether something is right or wrong in merit. There is an affinity between singularity and good judgments; there is a rejection of singularity when judgments are bad.

Now you must add an item to the starter kit: faith that a state of perfect being exists. You should seek feelings of perfection and what that does to your feelings of self. A hint about what perfection feels like is a transcendent sensation that lifts you above duality and is very, very peaceful. It isn’t so important that you imagine some literal moment; remember god isn’t a thing; god is a state of perfection. Further, your human desires likely do not reflect perfection – you exist in a dualistic reality. Speaking anthropomorphically, god draws you to be like god – to exist in a state of singularity. But first you need a god.

In the starter kit is a set of measuring devices which you use to measure the amount of perfection in an event, thought or motive in your life. These measuring tools are sort of like handy decision aids like a pregnancy stick or a ruler to measure legal fish or the air pressure in your tires. The scale on each of these tools has words to help with measuring:

Is this event, thought or motive good duality or bad duality? How much of god’s singularity is present? How much beauty? How much love? How much order? How much truth? How much empathy? How much compassion? This set of words determines the quality of an event that is created by humans. It is not advised that you invent your own sticks. Usually they measure bad duality. For example, common measuring sticks of bad duality are opportunism, prejudice, pride, greed and avarice. When you think about it, a state of perfection doesn’t have much that can be measured. However, all of dual reality can be measured for compliance with a state of perfection.

When you have this much of the kit assembled, it is time to practice your religion. Always carry your measuring sticks with you; your measurements will help you focus on god’s singularity and to live a happier and more satisfying life. The remaining parts of the starter kit require some seasoning on your part before you can assemble them.

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] Religion is about answering ‘why’ we exist and ‘what’ provides goodness in our lives. The mariner references old religions to help with understanding; the starter kit is quite transparent when it comes to sanctification, ritual, interpretation of goodness and what a transcendent being looks like or how it is identified. The generic identification of god is up to you. Joseph Campbell suggested that the term ‘myth’ always gets in trouble because people place their faith in the myth rather than in what the myth represents (Baal worship). Campbell said, “A myth is a metaphor for things we cannot easily explain or articulate.” So it is with the term ‘god.’ A common metaphor is “Goodness is godliness.”

It’s all about Washing too many Clothes.

During 2016, the year of politics, the main concern of American citizens often was laced with words like freedom, fairness, loyalty, ethic, social justice, virtue, ethos, and other words that focus on how Americans treat one another and the spirit that binds them or separates them as fellow US citizens. It seems, as a closely experienced moment in history, not to have been orderly. The American psyche behaves as though it were in a clothes washer. As a people, we are tossed about by economic unfairness; we are tossed about by clashes in philosophy of government; we are tossed about by a blatant intrusion of technology without time for adaptation and understanding; we are threatened by the loss of our planet.

But in a quick glance, we see only the tip of the iceberg. When we studied history in school, we were able to identify different periods of history tied to wars or inventions or shifts in culture. For example, The Enlightenment, or The Protestant Reformation, or The Elizabethan era, or The Boer Wars, or The Nuclear age. What is our era? What can we call the years from the end of the Viet Nam war (April 30, 1975) to 2016? Perhaps there are subdivisions: The Reagan Government; The Millennial Years; Beginning of the Electronic Age; The Middle East Wars; The Emerging age of Corporatism. Mariner suggests these time periods are too short. Are there more influential years that we may not think of at the moment?

Maybe the sixth Great Extinction suggested by Elizabeth Kolbert; maybe the newly named Anthropocene Epoch (Human use of fossil fuel since 1850 literally has changed the chemistry of the planet); maybe “The Age of Sinking Megacities.” Mariner does not suggest these titles to be cynical. They are too real and quite too serious to be castigations. It’s just so hard to focus. So many wonderful things about modernity are pushed aside because we have the froth of the clothes washer in our eyes.

Ancient Mariner

Earth the Artist

Regularly, Amos holds forth lamenting the failures of the human species. It is his wont. But there are places on Planet Earth where the planet can still display its own beauty, timelessness and independent reality untarnished by humans. For those traveling the North American Southwest, many earthen displays are available.

The mariner traveled through the Southwest on his way to Los Angeles to attend his daughter’s wedding. Having experienced horrendous traffic, indescribable waste of Earth buried beneath 12-lane highways and interchanges large enough to be cattle ranches, and slowly dying roadside trees and other vegetation from fossil fuel waste, the mariner was sensitized to those moments when Earth’s timeless beauty was on display – beauty undisturbed for eons because there are scant resources for human consumption or destruction.

The first moment with Earth’s museum of art is the Glenwood Canyon in western Colorado on I-70. When highway contractors planned to bulldoze their way through this magnificent canyon, the public rose up in protest led by many environmental organizations and championed by John Denver. The highway planners were forced to redesign I-70 in such a way that the splendor of Glenwood Canyon was preserved as much as possible and wildlife was not disrupted in its natural behaviors. Granted, the canyon would be even more inspirational without the accoutrement of automobiles but still one can view the majesty that only Earth can produce.

It comes to mind that the canyon is one of the planet’s cathedrals. Glenwood Canyon is narrow with vertical cliffs rising far above the Colorado River. The mind senses an upward thrust to the heavens and beyond; the cliffs frame a portal to the Universe. As with all Earth’s displays, the human experience is one that makes us aware that we are not in charge as much as we think we are. 5,972,000,000,000,000,000,000 metric tons is in charge.

Traveling on toward Las Vegas, there is a relatively short canyon that will be missed unless one is looking for earthen inspiration. The Virgin Canyon displays the massive power of Earth. While Glenwood Canyon displays unity with the Universe, Virgin Canyon displays the no-nonsense nature of Planet Earth. The rock formations are huge, suggesting immovable strength. The formations suggest that we are not as strong as the planet by a long shot; the mariner was impressed in the same manner a muscle builder may impress – overwhelming flexes of strength and potential energy.

Driving through the Mohave Desert/Red Rock Canyon, Earth offers continuous entertainment as only large deserts can. If you like colors, Red Rock and the Painted Desert east on the way to Albuquerque are phenomenal; it is obvious the planet was in its bright color phase when these colorful, vast canvases were painted.

Returning from Los Angeles, the mariner and his wife did not stop at the Grand Canyon. The canyon is impossible to absorb all at once. There are the displays of color; observers remark they must be painted by humans but not so. Earth is the origin of all colors and will use whatever color fits its purpose. Further, the vast cut into the canyon by Earth’s own history – a history before time and with no assistance by H sapiens, makes one become aware that the Earth has been around a lot longer than humans; one is reminded that a shallow sea once covered the canyon long before it became a canyon.

There are other artworks in Earth’s museum that are not rock formations. The mariner is in awe of the planet’s oceans. Sitting still on silent rolling swells makes one aware that oceans will do what they will regardless of human intent. The oceans surrounding the planet speak of Earth’s independence and they cavort only with the Sun and Moon to create tides.

When we look at the Milky Way and the Solar system, Earth shares with us its own family of inanimate siblings, cousins and stars. If nothing else, viewing Earth’s family shrinks our species to its proper importance. In times gone by, we borrowed the Zodiac from space as an attempt to explain Earth’s place in human understanding. We continue to this day pondering the existence of gravity and the cause of dark matter. Earth already knows.

Ancient Mariner