Examining Existence

The planet is embroiled in many confrontations. It has its own issues regarding its tendency to grow warmer and warmer; something Earth has been doing since the last ice age over twenty thousand years ago. Further, hominids have pitched in for the last 12,000 years, putting Earth on something akin to Cocaine. More on that later.

Earth, given its proximity to the Sun and carrying its own moon around, permits a certain pattern of life to exist. Hominids call it environment, ecosystem, life, nature, laws of physics and quantum mechanics. For the planet, though, the patterns of life are very much trial and error; Earth is indifferent to any intellectual perception that there is meaning to this randomness. Every evolutionary change is totally arbitrary.

This randomness is a characteristic of the entire universe, its stars, planets, moons and any order of nature that may exist in or among celestial reality. Consequently, all modifications to life are indifferent and may enhance an environment or may damage that environment. For example, recently an asteroid collided with the Earth in Mexico destroying ninety percent of life on the planet. On other occasions, volcanoes and earthquakes have stressed the environment to the point of having to start most of evolution over again. On the other hand, the assimilation of oceans of water placed on the planet allowed a supportive, temperate climate to emerge. Life was free to effortlessly experiment and has created a highly diversified environment.

The ethical premise of the universe and Earth is “what happens is what happens.” This applies to evolution in its entirety. In general, what keeps evolution going and surviving is, if mariner may borrow a politicized phrase, a quid pro quo arrangement between a species and its environment. A species takes from the environment to survive but also in the final analysis gives something back to the ecosystem. Overall there is a balance between species and environment.

If evolution is to be sustained, there is a need for predators. Many species in ignorance will over indulge their environment and breed to the point that nature becomes imbalanced; consider the cougar versus white tailed deer or the Peregrine falcon versus pigeons.

There is an exception: parasites. Parasites will consume an entire ecosystem even to the point it becomes fatal for the parasite. In the bacteria-virus world, parasites are common: the black plague, measles, sexually transmitted disease, ebola, etc. In the mammalian age, there are hominids.

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The ‘what happens is what happens’ phenomenon in this case is intelligence. Hominids are subject to the same quid pro quo as other mammals but after a while, intelligence learned how to break that deal between nature and the species. And by the time Homo sapiens sapiens evolved, brutalizing nature was an art form. Humans had become parasites of the planet’s environment. No aspect of nature was protected. Mining, chemical farming, destruction of large ecosystems like the Brazilian rain forest, and the extinction of 83 percent of the world’s species is de rigeuer. Atmospheric pollution took a back seat to profit – a classic parasitic move.

Elizabeth Kolbert, author of ‘The Sixth Extinction’, believes that Homo will bring about the global extinction of the mammalian age. Species are driven to extinction by simple but thorough intrusions into sensitive biospheres. A blatant example of parasitic behavior is to open the world’s largest surface mine and the largest oil drilling operation in Alaska – thereby wiping out the salmon that must use the same rivers to populate. As the reader reads this post, profiteering (AKA parasitic behavior) has moved to the bottom of the Earth’s oceans in search of new profits.

Mariner believes that the imminent recession in the world economy, the inability of governments around the world to find an ethical compass, and the disregard of individual citizens to take responsibility for the state of the planet, all may lead to a great collapse made more punitive by a planet on cocaine. How Homo and Earth’s creatures will recover is open to question.

If nothing else, vote to sustain the future, not to repair the past.

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.

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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


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

Mariner concedes

Writing and thinking, in whatever confused state, remain the defenses against mariner becoming a premature zombie. For his own wellbeing, mariner must continue to express his observations about anthropology, reason, philosophy, and the vagaries of power in the world at large.

However. There must be compromise. Mariner no longer concerns himself with the Lord of the Rings drama in Washington. There is too much that suffers in an impoverished state because dystopian drama is more important to media and to the major actors of power.

A second compromise is to produce one post weekly – delivered on Monday. Consider this post as the first one. The main reason for identifying a specific day is because mariner’s email notifications never worked and most were returned as undeliverable. Perhaps, like the old, retired draft horse, everyone will remember to come to the barn at least on Mondays. Mariner will send email notices only for this post to notify as many – or as few – that mariner is posting again.

Returning on a positive note, mariner observes a delicate awakening to the realities of the rest of this century. The elders need not feel pride; it is younger millennials and Zs that see the future. More and more articles in quality news and literature address climate change, racism and destructive economic policy. Even unions have begun to flex themselves in an effort to bring an end to forty years of salary oppression. Mariner’s chief issue, privacy, is emerging as nations around the world are beginning to levy heavy fines on big data corporations. Further, this awakening is international; it is global as it must be.

At the moment, guru’s attention is focused on two issues that are harbingers of what direction American society will take in the future: the two measures in focus: (a) abortion rights and (b) education. The first a measure of the right to manage one’s life as an independent creature among a myriad of religious, cultural and prejudicial movements; the second a measure of how important valid knowledge is as a compass to rationality. A major vision of the future is shaped by whether individuals, meaning democracy, equality and all the dreamy stuff of the Great American Experiment will survive in a totally different world than exists today.

Glad to visit with all of you again.

Ancient Mariner


Love . . .

(Tevye) Golde, Do you love me?

(Golde) Do I what?

(Tevye) Do you love me?

(Golde) Do I love you?

With our daughters getting married and this trouble in the town

You’re upset, you’re worn out go inside, go lie down!

Maybe it’s indigestion…

(Tevye) “Golde I’m asking you a question…” Do you love me?

(Golde) You’re a fool

(Tevye) “I know…”but do you love me?

(Golde) Do I love you? for twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow; after twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?

(Tevye) Golde, The first time I met you was on our wedding day. I was scared

(Golde) I was shy

(Tevye) I was nervous

(Golde) So was I

(Tevye) But my father and my mother said we’d learn to love each other

And now I’m asking, Golde do you love me?

(Golde) I’m your wife

(Tevye) “I know…” But do you love me?

(Golde) Do I love him? For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him, fought him, starved with him. Twenty-five years my bed is his. If that’s not love, what is?

(Tevye) Then you love me?

(Golde) I suppose I do

(Tevye) And I suppose I love you too

(Both) It doesn’t change a thing but even so after twenty-five years it’s nice to know.

These lyrics are from that once in a lifetime play and movie “Fiddler on the Roof.” The reader may have noticed that their marriage was arranged rather than the result of courtship. Every song in that show related to emotional and social accountability that everyone must deal with as life moves along. In his thirties at the time, “Do You Love Me” provided mariner with a more complex definition of love. Love is a formula rather than a singular experience. Briefly, one can name several distinct types of love: a child for its mother; a parent for their children; infatuation; an employee for their job, etc. There are esoteric forms of love: for country; for nature; for the sea; for a sport, etc.

If one could divide love in a pie chart, commitment by far would be the largest piece. Different disciplines use different words for commitment; ponder ‘sacrifice’ for example: Is there a difference between a soldier diving on a grenade to save his squad and Golde spending 25 years sacrificing for her family? Vastly different circumstances but the common denominator is commitment.

The next largest piece would be empathy. It takes empathy to ‘bond’ with someone. Being able to perceive reality from another point of view whether it’s a life partner, a pet or someone on the street is a mental capability that is not evenly available among humans. Most arguments about lack of empathy center on bad developmental experiences when young or the fact that each human brain is as unique as fingerprints.

The third-sized piece is a stable psyche. A synonym for psyche is ‘spirit.’ There’s a trope that says “You have to love yourself before you can love someone else.” A tale from mariner’s life is his prejudice against tennis players who wear their ball cap backwards. He claims he doesn’t want to be distracted by their troubled psyche. Hmm, does mariner have an empathy problem or his own psyche issue?

The last of the larger pieces in love’s pie chart is gratification. Personal reward. That super feel good experience that makes one glad they are who they are; they feel complete; they feel successful. Importantly, there’s only one way to feel gratification: by an act of commitment empathetic to another’s need that grows one’s psyche and is successful in its objectives.

“Love makes the world go ’round” so says the 1961 play “Carnival.”

Ancient Mariner


Mariner advises readers that the women on television who wake up, sit up, smile a big grin and stretch their arms skyward is a myth fostered by mattress companies. Mariner does not have this experience upon wakening. When mariner wakes up it is like disinterring the dead.

Mariner’s wakefulness begins as virtually unnoticeable stirring for about fifteen minutes. Finally, he rises to sit on the side of his bed not with stomach muscles but with the counterbalance of his legs falling to the floor. He sits motionless. The brain does not function – his brain is mesmerized by the pattern in the carpet; his knees and back voice dissent at the idea of rising. Blood begins to flow through his muscles as though it were oatmeal; the cells pass the word cell-to-cell: “He’s awake; get ready.”

Mariner looks out the bedroom window. Cat Stevens’ morning has broken; inside mariner’s morning is broken. After several minutes, thoughts begin to occur in the vacant brain: shave. Shave?! “What is this, a concentration camp?” It is the 995th day of the Trump Presidency. Oh no – mariner has been sent to hell! Mariner struggles to construct his day. This is an important moment. If mariner comprehends there is a schedule, he continues to sit a few moments then rises from the side of the bed. His muscles leap into action like first responders. On the other hand, if no schedule surfaces, mariner rolls back onto his bed, pulls his linen casket cover over him and retreats whence he came, perhaps to be disinterred later.

There is no alcohol in this scenario; no THC. (Though the mariner suspects the women in the mattress commercials are into crack and amphetamines.) Sleep deprivation isn’t an issue; during his life mariner typically averages 6-8 hours. So why does mariner greet the day with lethargy and the speed of a sloth?

There are two reasons: 1) Mariner pushes his day into the wee hours; this has been his style his entire life. 2) Mariner has no obligations that require precise scheduling or timely responsibility. In other words, mariner is retired. Somewhat responsible for himself, he tells friends he works an eight hour day – it just takes three days to do it.

Seriously, the lack of schedule is one element among many that leads to a degraded quality of life. On some occasions, it may cause depression and a tendency to become a recluse. It may contribute to earlier dementia. On the skill side, lack of participation in social groups, shared events and daily interaction with others diminishes the personality leading to shallow thinking and a reduced ability to solve problems.

At a more abstract level, one’s sense of self suffers from lack of a reason to be – a raison d’être. This, too, can lead to depression. It is important for retired folks, especially surviving spouses, to identify with a set of tasks that bolster one’s feelings of self-value. It may be an elaborate hobby, a responsible role in a club or church, volunteering in charitable organizations or finding a job. There are many mutual care opportunities where a couple of elderly retirees commit to supporting each other – an instant family!

Mariner’s death sleep aside, he keeps busy during the day on several fronts that engage him physically, mentally and socially.

Here’s to retirement – the good life!

Ancient Mariner



It’s Time for Religion

There are times when we must return to religion. This is difficult in today’s helter-skelter value systems and rapidly shifting beliefs in the world in which we live. To the extent that religion itself is caught up in the raging politics of wealth, depravation and transition, finding a value to which to return is difficult and precarious. As religious believers, we are lost in a morass of myth change, unstable human value and empirical disruption.

Sometimes, it is helpful to discard that which is confusion. What is it that has proven to be survivable, worldly, simpatico and stable beneath the fray of economics, politics, common prejudices and conflict? There is comradeship in basic human existence. There is comradeship in nature’s rule of life. There is partnership in the pursuit of survivability.

But who will lead the path to religious morality? Who will reset the world to the powers of creation and sanctity? Who will link the power of ethos and universal value to a day in the life of humanity?


Elected officials and government cannot do this. Militarism cannot do this. Great leaders cannot do this. Elitism cannot do this. You can do this. Live your life according to your beliefs in Divine Providence. Do not allow your sense of right to be distracted by the confusion and misdirection of life. You know what is sacred. Believe your faith in the holiness of reality; believe in the virtue of equality among humans and humanness. If God is your leader, obey God’s rules.

Politics will not save us. Wealth will not save us. Battles against oneness will not save us. Love will save us.

Ancient Mariner



When it comes down to it, you’re not on your own

[NPR] Debbie Baker thought she qualified for a federal program that helps teachers such as her, as well as nurses, police officers, librarians and others. The Department of Education program forgives their federal student loans if they make their payments for 10 years and work in public service.

But it turns out that her $76,000 in student loans didn’t get forgiven. Baker was finally told she was in the wrong type of loan. If she’d known that at the beginning, she could have switched loans and ended up qualifying. But she says nobody ever told her.

The tough message is that no one is in your corner but you. There are many who want to help you but they can do only so much. The bottom line is, in the jungle of politics, government programs, health, career, taxes and survival, one must be responsible for one’s self – but not by one’s self! This is especially true in these times of confusion and change.

It used to be if a person had a good physician and at least knew of a lawyer, the person’s interaction with society was manageable. Today, of course, a person requires specialists for dozens of relationships with society; most of these relationships are not petty and can have an impact on finances, insurance, property and taxes – to say nothing about education and medical expenses. Even taking a vacation often requires interacting with travel agencies.

To the reader, this means two things: 1- society is like a herd of elephants; they are big, cumbersome and even if they want to help out, it’s just as likely they will crush you. 2- surviving elephants requires special knowledge; it is a sad fact that one can no longer simply visit a specialist who will guarantee one’s wellbeing. Today, one must first do homework.

  • Know very specifically what one wants to achieve. Have an idea about how the achievement will be accomplished.
  • Educate one’s self about the subject; the Internet is a marvelous place to research details. So are libraries. Particularly learn about the responsibilities of those who will help. Ideally, talk with someone who has achieved the same goal.
  • Just as Debbie made a mistake by not reading the fine print, most folks will overlook something that may be important. Fine print is everywhere today. A common error when investing is to not know the difference between a financial planner and a fund salesman. Financial planners were required by federal law to act in your best interest. Mariner said ’were’ because Donald had that rule removed early in his presidency; still, financial planners have one’s best interests at heart. Unfortunately, the larger investment firms stock up on fund salesmen; unless one is genuinely wealthy, one will not be serviced by a financial planner.
  • Use a local bank and a local attorney. Let them know they will be counted on for all actions even if circumstances require additional specialists.
  • When it comes to health insurance, it is a cutthroat business. Find neutral intermediaries to help with jargon and options. Some pharmacies offer services that will help make the best decision; there are quasigovernmental agencies (SHIIP, for example) that will help when making decisions about medical insurance. In matters of health finances, homework is required.
  • Voting is the most important civic responsibility. Shortly before voting season, write to your elected officials to request promotional literature. Mariner cannot count the number of conversations with folks who not only didn’t know much but what they did know was attributed to the wrong party.

Just on a lark mariner decided to list within one minute as many specialists as one may need when engaging society:

Banker, attorney, financial advisor, primary care physician, optometrist, dentist, automobile mechanic, heating and air conditioning technician, proficient carpenter, proficient electrician, baby sitter, public school teacher, marriage counselor, psychologist, fitness center instructor, Tai Chi instructor, real estate agent and on TV, advice for everything from Doctor Oz to movie reviews.

The point is that today one cannot go it alone and must do homework as well. Make sure the right person and the right decision occur.


‘1 Million Americans Will Be Shot in the Next Decade’

Video by The Atlantic

“I see more gunshot wounds as a trauma surgeon here in the United States per week than I did when I was serving in Kandahar, Afghanistan,” says Dr. Mallory Williams, chief of the Division of Trauma and Critical Care at Howard University Hospital. “There’s no question about it.”

In a new Atlantic short documentary, American Trauma: How the NRA Sparked a Medical Rebellion, Dr. Williams and other esteemed trauma surgeons explain how the severity—and, frequently, fatality—of gunshot-related injuries has galvanized the medical community to take action against gun violence. However, in many ways, their hands are tied: In 1996, Congress passed an amendment—lobbied for by the National Rifle Association—that prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using federal funds to “advocate or promote gun control.” This includes conducting government-sponsored research on the effects of gun violence.[1]

Ancient Mariner

[1] For video see: https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/593707/trauma-doctors/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=video-series-atlantic-documentaries&utm_content=20190711&silverid-ref=NDkwMjIzMjA1Mjg2S0

Mariner’s Alter Egos

Mariner takes time out in this post to clarify what readers find odd if not confusing – his use of alter egos. A short explanation is on the blog page “About the Ancient Mariner.”

The egos are based on Aristotle’s Triangle of Persuasion: Ethos-Pathos-Logos, alternatively, ethical values, existential values, logical values. Again alternatively, Guru, Chicken Little and Amos. Mariner has taken some unavoidable liberties with the three to infuse them with mariner’s personality and his post objectives; still, the underlying function of each can be defined by Aristotle’s triangle. If the reader wants to know more about Aristotle’s triangle, use the reader’s search engine.

Guru (ethos) is named after the abstract philosopher in the BC comic strip: otherworldly, definitely abstruse and beyond social motivation. Guru lives in the rarified atmosphere of philosophy, theoretical physics and esoteric theological principles.

Chicken Little (pathos) is named after the famous chicken in the children’s storybook. Chicken Little represents the vulnerability of everyone as they try to survive in the manufactured, albeit incongruous and unfair political methods of tribal existence. “The sky is falling” is a genuinely accurate and frequent experience for everyone.

Amos (logos) is named after the prophet Amos in the Old Testament. His accounting of the state of affairs in Israel 700 years before Jesus was quite acerbic and accusatory. Israel was in a period of peace and prosperity (much like the US) but increasingly disregarded God’s laws, especially in economic terms (much like the US).

If one were to review all of mariner’s posts from the beginning in 2013 (not advised – mariner wouldn’t do it, either), one would notice that each post was influenced by one or another of the three alter egos. Most often, Amos prevails because that is what the blog is all about – the state of affairs in life, science, religion, economics, ethics, etc. But the reader need not pay attention to a post in terms of alter egos; it is their contribution to the whole, much like a recipe has ingredients. One doesn’t think of the little yeast living a short life in bread dough, one thinks of toast and butter.

Ancient Mariner


Reparation Revisited – the Native Americans

Readers raised the question whether the US owed the Native American reparation. Setting aside the fact that Europeans arrived on the Atlantic shores and proceeded with a policy of genocide, some may contend that the Native Americans received reparation via the establishment of indian reservations. This is as rewarding as saying the Japanese Americans that were forced into internment camps during WWII were pleased about the fact they were put in prison.

Andrew Jackson’s order to relocate the Cherokee Nation to Oklahoma (Trail of Tears) is more demonstrative of the fact that reservations were no reparation. The land for reservations was the poorest that could be had. During the Trail of Tears, 4,000 men, women, and children died and included Creek, Choctaw, Seminole, and Chickasaw that were relocated under the Indian Removal Act of 1830. For centuries the original Cherokee land occupied the entire area from the Mississippi River in the West to the Blue Ridge Mountain in the East. There was pressure to claim those lands to find gold and expand farmland for those who weren’t Native Americans.

Mariner doubts anyone then or now claims that exile to useless internment camps (reservations) was reparation. In a recent post travelogue, mariner noted the poor state of reservation economics; the average Native American has assets averaging 10% of the rest of the US population.

Taking into consideration the displacement of Neanderthal by Homo sapiens, the propensity for invasive genocide throughout the ages, the desire to eradicate via multiple terrorist wars in Africa and the Middle East, humans are of the same propensity as the black plague, jackal, hyena, Komodo Dragon, and of course, our predecessor, the chimpanzee.

Food for thought: For those without money, plutocracy is a form of slavery by deprivation without constraints or interest in a person’s whereabouts or bodily wellbeing – for now.

Ancient Mariner