Unplugged as Metaphor

There was discussion about mariner’s self-imposed ‘isolation.’ It was perceived that mariner had separated himself from society by blocking channels of communication and information. It was suggested that, while there may be abuse by communication corporations, the tradeoff is having access to more information and a better sense of what’s going on – a quid pro quo so to speak.

Mariner suggests the issue is not one of information but one of control. The insight he has while in communication isolation is a feeling that he is not dancing to an imposed melody. Mariner knows he is beating a tired horse in his posts but the issue of not having control of one’s life or personal values, and not being in a position to do a lot about it – and not being aware this is the situation – is no different than citizens in the book 1984 and in the movie Matrix (one was put into a coffin at birth and fed an artificial reality directly to the brain).

Recently mariner posted a short post saying privacy and choice were two sides of the same coin; can’t have one without the other. That relationship cannot be denied. Homo sapien history is full of continuous rebellion against someone else dictating one’s choices. Most often it has been countered by war. It can be countered by collective bargaining whether that means unions, voting, cultural separation, or individual isolation. Success in changing things, however, can’t be done in isolation; it takes a large representation of the affected society.

Mariner is concerned that populations around the world are not prepared for the control that can be had by governments and especially by corporations with the use of powerful computers and privacy-draining data collection. Somewhere along the way, society must develop a rule that says humans will approve modification to culture, law, economy, and quality of life. Otherwise, human life may not be worth more than an imaginary life in a coffin.

– – – –

On a distantly related note, the new European restrictions on international telecommunications has severed mariner from 40% of his readership.

Ancient Mariner

 

Unplugged

Mariner continues his elimination of television viewing. Except for tennis tournaments and a few PBS shows, the television sits dark. This attitude spreads to other means of communication. Noting that Verizon’s fine service in his town requires him to use the cell phone outside because there is no signal inside, the phone lies unused as well; mariner makes a point of carrying it only when he and his wife are apart.

There are no newspapers; this, too, is not hard to establish because mariner lives in a small prairie town in Iowa. Newspapers are small at best and lack the editorial clout and information of big city newspapers. Mariner still receives three or four good magazines; his wife, an insatiable reader, enjoys reading them. Further, the magazines are donated to the local library.

Typically, mariner finds plenty to fill the day with gardening, woodworking, property maintenance and travel to nearby small cities for shopping; the closest ‘city’ with commercial and entertainment services is 15 miles away. However, the summer heat is unbearable with humidity high enough to use as paint. Of late, mariner is kept inside by the Sun. This leads to moments of boredom – a sensation that is amazingly powerful. One must be creative to avoid boredom; mariner fills these gaps with online research about numerous interests and pursues better woodworking skills. He even writes a blog.

This experiment in isolation has several psychological reactions. Foremost, peace is at hand because whatsisname rarely is mentioned. A shift in the sense of self occurs which makes one more self-sufficient; one no longer needs to be fulfilled by communication technology. Another feeling is restlessness; mariner is out of the mainstream, workday world and, like the old draft horse in the barn, misses the morning harness.

Finally, there is a subtle feeling of independence; one need not spend the day dancing to the tune of overwhelming information and the feeling of helplessness brought about by a troubled world just the other side of the TV power switch; there is no need to thumb-punch the day away on a smartphone. Mariner is in charge of his day.

Nevertheless, peace being at hand, one still has civic responsibilities and must remain informed; mariner has sources – just not on television. Very little meaningful news is reported by whatsisname.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Share First, Bicker Later

Will Rogers is mentioned from time to time in past posts. He is a member of mariner’s “Heroes of Human Life Hall of Fame.” In today’s post, mariner draws from Will’s life an example of genuine compassion and true insight into the rules of survival for the human race. Will was a world famous humorist with a sharp, deeply exposing wit. If one reads any of his material or his biography, one is taken with the realism, clarity and depth that lay behind his humor. His primary target always was the abuse of power to the disadvantage of the average person. Needless to say, government was a favorite target. A few joke lines will bear this out:

֎Every time Congress makes a joke it’s law, and every time they make a law it’s a joke.

֎Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.

֎I can remember way back when a liberal was one who was generous with his own money.

֎Anything important is never left to the vote of the people. We only get to vote on some man; we never get to vote on what he is to do.

֎If we ever pass out as a great nation we ought to put on our tombstone, ‘America died from a delusion that she has moral leadership.’

֎Liberty don’t work as good in practice as it does in speeches.

Born November 4, 1879 in Oologah, Indian Territory, USA [now Oklahoma]

Died August 15, 1935 near Point Barrow, Territory of Alaska, USA (plane crash)

Will was born on a Cherokee Indian reservation. He carried the social philosophy of the American Indian with him his entire life and lived by it. Simply, the American Indian did not have a profit-based culture. If a hunting party returned with three elk or gatherers returned with vegetables and fruit, it was shared equally among the tribe members – without challenge or prejudice. Native Americans may have bargained for improved benefits but not for the sake of profit. Will was the breadwinner for his family and farm workers; he shared his income across the board. It was sharing that drove his and the Native American’s economy – not profit. The hunter, gatherer, breadwinner, entrepreneur, whatever it is called, seeks value-added resources that are shared – not hoarded. One’s individual value as a human is not based on who is richest. Will would not say, “I’m more worthy because I drive a new Lincoln and you don’t.” Will would not say, “I will not share with you because you did not hunt today.” This last comment is a reflection on mariner’s favorite, all time most frequently heard comment: “They ought to get off their butt and get a job!” Is that sharing or what?

– – – –

What is obvious at this point is our heritage, our most common assumptions about what is right or true, and our automatic reflexes in political situations – they carry our past as though our history was tagged to our genes. The white man’s western culture echoes the Greek and Roman dynasties and the rights and privileges of power; the western religion echoes the stringent and highly organizational Holy Roman Church; the Dark Age morality and the evolution of business into massive profit centers evoke modern capitalism.

Conversely, the Native American had no experience with Greece or Rome or capitalism. Their world began and ended with Mother Earth, the source of life and the end in death. In 1604, Native Americans still lived in the Stone Age – unmarked by the genes of history engrained in the white man. Native Americans, by some miracle, had a balanced faith, stable social culture and a neutral relationship with the environment.

No, they are ignorant savages said the white man. Where is Rome? Where is power? Where is class stratification? Where is wealth? The overwhelming presence of European ethics and morality, along with the tools of power and its abuses, led a genocide comparable to Myanmar today.

Will Rogers had a foot in both worlds. He struggled through most of his life trying to find a role for himself in a society that did not recognize idiosyncrasy or unsophisticated behavior as a value. Not until Will was discovered in classic Hollywood or YouTube tradition was he able to walk the white man’s world at the same time preaching through humor his ethical roots carried from his Cherokee background.

We cannot step away from 2,000 years of accumulated western influence. We are of the west. But like a ship in heavy seas, we can work the rudder to find a safer and more productive way to survive. We can reason with ourselves: why take from ourselves? Why abuse nature instead of building it so we and nature can survive together. This is more important today because the grandchildren of today’s millennials will live in a world we cannot imagine. Western culture will transition to a new ethical standard; what’s true or right or justifiable will not follow the rules of European history. If our society does not trim its sails and man the rudder, our fragmentation will not survive with any discernable ethical base. In other words, the future will not be a nice place; there will be little intellectual difference between a human being and a robot.

The keyword given to us by Will is ‘share.’ Do not judge first – share first. Do not measure wealth or class, measure sharing. There will always be political and ethical issues among us. Deal with them after all of us have shared our circumstances. Sharing is participating in the two great commandments. After all, sharing came before Greece and Rome invented hoarding.

Ancient Mariner

On Being a Shut-in – 2

 

Mariner thanks readers who responded with replies and emails. All were supportive. One reader suggested ‘shut-out’ would be a better term because the fact is there is no room for mariner in the state of the world. That term certainly has merit. There are many readers, also who are shut out; they know it and strive anyway at moving the world along by continuing their obligations as a member of a democratic nation.

Shut-in and shut-out both work. It may be the perspective of each individual that determines which term is appropriate. Mariner has focused on the shut-in experience. How does a shut-in adapt to a constrained reality? Each of us experiences an individualized slice of reality. If one had a job, family, and recreational activities, still that would be a narrow slice of reality at large. Could one ask, “Is Donald’s faithful base experiencing the life of a shut-in – constrained within a walled reality where changing economy, population and culture raise fears about the outside world? Is the life of a person of color a constrained reality that is just a shut-in version of greater reality? Could each of us, however liberated we may feel, be limited to a shut-in version of general reality?

Enough. Mariner ponders too much. Mariner is curious about how a shut-in adapts to the reality that is available. His personal experience suggests that all of us, shut-in, shut-out or otherwise, make adjustments to sustain an even, acceptable keel in our daily life however constrained. Not being God, the ultimate reality, all of us must find a balance that, if nothing else, allows us to wake up the next day and carry on.

It is difficult for physically and emotionally limited individuals. How does one find self-worth when one cannot participate in normal society? How does one pass a long, uneventful day? Mariner, having a very small and not discomforting challenge, found that filling the day requires deep emotional and intellectual thought. Depression is a constant threat; boredom is a sledgehammer disrupting problem-solving thought; time moves in slow motion making the day longer. Mariner quickly learned that, if each of us were to make a better world, it would be making a true, physically constrained shut-in have a better day.

Most of us, of course, are not physically or emotionally constrained. Still, we are shut-in, not allowing us to experience the full rainbow of life and, existentially, true reality. For the moment, mariner feels that constraint forces each of us to invent meaningful reality – a reality that provides personal worth and accomplishment as a human being. This can be holistic and gratifying or it can be disruptive, warlike and destructive. Whatever the outcome, we are challenged by being shut-ins.

Ancient Mariner

 

On Being a Shut-in

Each of us knows at least one person who is a shut-in. There are different reasons for being a shut-in. If one is infirm, disabled, or functionally incompetent, obviously one has no choice but to live in the small, contained space of their home, which may be limited to one small room.

Another reason to become a shut-in is fear; the outside world has become too onerous. One fears one’s own incompetence. The home is a safe haven requiring no responsibility or accountability to the outside world.

Another reason, the reason mariner chose, is disgust and helplessness. It’s not so much he chose to become physically contained but that he has shut off news of the world – entirely. Not even reading websites of excellent repute. Mariner subscribes to a few top-tier magazines that lie on the table largely unread.

Mariner has lamented countless times about an electorate he perceives to be absent of any intellect whatsoever, any tiniest bit of compassion or integrity, and chooses to dwell in a land of misinformation, prejudice based on nothing, and accepts as true only those opinions and facts that fit the needs of one’s personal hippocampus.

Then there is the feeling of helplessness. Mariner is an old sailor that has lived a lifetime tilting at windmills no one else felt were important. The presence of Donald and dysfunctional legislatures across the land have induced great frustration and anger in mariner. He lives in a nation that shot dead the leaders of unified government, the Great Society and Civil Rights yet today would rather believe religiously in unfounded, false information and support only the most base interpretation of human rights and dignity. All the while, a kleptocratic President feeds the oligarchical power of an economy that does not include 99% of the electorate.

Having become a shut-in is clearly a different experience. The days are pleasant and mild; one notices how well the lilies bloomed this year; one putters in the workshop learning new woodworking techniques; one follows with little interruption the progress of tennis tournaments.

True, a feeling of uselessness pops up once in a while. In a relatively short amount of time mariner has retired from his job, divested real estate holdings, sold the farm, and is aware that grandparenthood, however pleasant, means one is not on the first team anymore. But mariner’s frustration and anger subside. It is possible to feel ‘normal.’

Do not feel obligated to draw mariner back into the real world run by the electorate; no matter the result of any election or legislative act, it still will be the world that frustrates and angers mariner. Being a shut-in can be quite palliative.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

God’s Christmas Garden

There is a strain of theology that suggests the phenomenon we call history is evidence of a God who is not necessarily a god of intercession but who has set certain conditions in place that cause reaction and compensation to occur. This is true of the stars, planets and other astronomic phenomena as well as the conditions of living things – including living things on Planet Earth. This strain of theology is a subset of pantheism; the difference is that God didn’t create everything and just walk away; before departing, God set a timer of sorts to avoid a static, unchanging universe. We perceive this timer as history – the ongoing reaction to and compensation for events. Mariner’s more colorful analogy is when he sets up the garden under the Christmas tree the last thing is to plug in electricity. Lo and behold! Immediately mariner must react to and compensate for unexpected conditions. There is an eventful history in mariner’s Christmas gardens.

So it is that humans continuously and unconditionally react to the vagaries of God’s timer. Humans devised a concept of God in such a way that a relationship could exist between humanness and Godliness. On the other hand, some suggest that being superior and distinct is self-serving and grandiose; that in truth Homo sapiens is nothing more than a smart gorilla. This dichotomy may be the essence of human life on earth and perhaps provides the electricity that creates history in our Christmas garden: we are hedonistic idealists.

So much for theology. Let’s move to dogma. For clarity in our metaphor the smart gorilla will be divided into two separate persons: Smart and Gorilla.

Gorilla is a product of evolution, of the laws of creation set in place before God left. Gorilla is no different than any other mammal insofar as the need for safety, nutrition, sex and comfort. Frankly, this is as far as dogma goes for Gorilla: pursue safety, be sated, have sex, and be comfortable while performing these acts. Provide a male Gorilla with a handful of gorilla maidens and existence is complete. Should any of these requirements be challenged in some way by another gorilla or any other beast in creation, Gorilla becomes Mighty Joe Young and will defeat any challenge. This aggressive behavior is more a ritual than a dogma; it will be addressed later.

Gorilla had been around for millions and millions of years before Smart came along. Evolution has positioned Smart as the junior partner, a Charles Darwin type of experimental mutation. Like many other unnecessary mutations, Smart is a troublemaker because Smart turns out to be an abuser of Gorilla’s environment and has an unbearable ego. Smart’s egotistic tendencies lead to the importance of sanctification, validation, modification and self-promotion; a set of terms that are Smart’s dogma.

Now Smart and Gorilla will be rejoined to live in one brain. Because Gorilla is the dominant self, Smart does not often get a chance to express independent behavior. In fact, Smart in many ways uses Gorilla’s behavior to a level that damages Gorilla’s environment and causes unnecessary fights with other Gorilla families. Survival of the fittest is now laced with survival of the most vain. Still, all in all, evolution’s law that the fittest will survive is in play. In the Christmas garden analogy, vanity may be electricity – the active ingredient for further evolutionary history.

Stay with mariner here – mariner decides to have an interview with Smart:

“How are you and Gorilla getting along?” he asked Smart.

“Being a mutant is not an enjoyable experience,” Smart replied. “I’ve been living in an old fashioned gorilla body for a long time; seems it’s about time I took charge of this new branch of evolution’s tree.”

Mariner was puzzled. “What do you have in mind?”

“I’ve started making changes where I can,” Smart said. “The planet has adapted to electricity; then I started introducing devices like the telephone, radio and television. That moved faster than I thought it would and already has become integrated with gorilla physiology.”

“What do you mean integrated?” mariner asked.

“If I am ever to take charge of my own being, I have to swap out parts of Gorilla’s body for parts that fit my own nature. The medical field has made the most advances by using electronic replacements. Think about Gorilla’s sense of hearing – Gorilla couldn’t hear more than one hundred yards away until I introduced the telephone. Now Gorilla can hear around the world. Or should I say Smart can hear around the world. For that matter, hearing aids let Smart hear even when Gorilla can’t.”

Mariner was intrigued. “You’re suggesting that your body is quite different than Gorilla’s body. Is there any part of your body in common with Gorilla’s body?”

Smart paused for a moment. “I am alive just like Gorilla but even that requires redefinition. What is ‘alive’ made of? Is the Sun alive? It has a lifespan; what is the definition of life – not by defining parts but by defining function?”

Mariner responded. “You are a new branch of a tree that contains carbon-based life forms. Whatever the definition of life’s functions, Smart still will need a body of some sort.”

“That assumption is spoken like a true carbon-based creature” Smart retorted. Look around at the new devices that are moving Smart to the edge of Gorilla’s capabilities: Remember that old movie ‘The Stepford Wives’? They exist today and are sold as sex toys; there are robots that can carry a real conversation with humans; there are robots that can learn a thousand times faster than humans; for the first time intelligent electronic devices don’t have to look like humans – consider Alexa, Google, Cortana, Siri and the like.”

Mariner commented, “These are excellent electronic devices that foretell the promise of Artificial Intelligence but I don’t see the connection with your statement about replacing Gorilla parts.”

“I don’t use the term ‘artificial.’ Intelligence is intelligence. Pay particular attention to advances in brain-related technology. Did you know mental imaging can be captured in an electronic device? Did you know that for some time now the brain can actually command dexterity in artificial limbs without an electronic box? Did you know that recently electronics were able to replicate human thought outside the brain? Do you see what Smart is doing?” Smart paused.

Not really sure,” mariner said.

“The time is rapidly approaching when I will exist in an electronic state and no longer require Gorilla’s mammalian body.” Smart went on, enjoying the vision of a new state of being. “I am making rapid progress now. It won’t be too many decades before human lower court judges will be replaced with Smart – sans the gorilla suit, of course.”

What will a Smart lower court judge look like?” mariner asked.

“In the beginning, androids may be necessary but all one needs is my brain linked to a data source. Eventually, perhaps a small box attached to the global network. My brain will be integrated with external intelligence devices providing a unified super intelligence.” Smart stopped.

Mariner mused a bit. “That sounds like using a virtual reality mask.”

“Now you’re getting the drift of things – just remove Gorilla.”

Mariner opened a new direction. “How does Smart eat without a body? Is exercise important?”

“Nutrition is chemically based; I will eat through tubes. My body is still evolving; my existence will be a combination of network integration and mobility of some mechanical sort. Have you ever watched the show ‘Battlebots’? It’s truly primitive but the technology is solving issues around mobility. I’ll need some type of mobility. I like the idea of multiple bodies at once; something the Battlebots have introduced with their second and third attack aides.”

“So all you will keep is the brain you and Gorilla share?”

“Yes. Likely the physiological support will fade away over time.”

Mariner closed the interview. There was the whole issue of society, politics and freedom but mariner had to give more thought to that before he could talk to Smart again.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Coming of Age

Mariner has mentioned a number of times that he is an old codger. He is aware that his age has constrained his point of view regarding many of the social, political, economic, ethical and technological changes that are dragging us kicking and screaming into the future. While he considers himself educated, perceptive, and acceptably compassionate, still he suffers from ideological and social isolation in these turbulent times. The most significant indicator of withdrawal is a growing lack of interest in news – world, US, political or otherwise. Even his Scientific American Magazine, subscribed to since 1964, occasionally goes unread.

Another indicator of ‘codgerism’ is a growing lack of interest with groups who identify with causes and community activities. Mind you, this is not absolute in nature; mariner could no more be a hermit than could a herring. It isn’t that mariner disdains the efforts of these groups, some of which are quite wholesome; it’s more that the context for individual participation has changed.

A few examples may enlighten the reader as to the subtle shift in perception that seems to underlie codgerism. (Mariner dare not apply a euphemism to the lovely women of his generation.)

Mariner has older friends who make his age seem juvenile. They remain traditionally religious and struggle just a little with the new role of the church and the ‘loose’ attitude of parishioners. When the friends were growing up and well into their adulthood, the church was the center of theological meaning, morality, politics, social identity, and the center of collaboration with others. In rural areas this was especially true. His older friends are more gracious toward parishioners than mariner; they suffer their current church mates amicably while mariner carries a mild prejudice against do-nothing pew Christians. Another friend is a professed Taoist; today there is no difference in behavior between the faiths.

Another example of attitude isolation or codgerism demonstrates how technology can leave whole segments of a society isolated in their social understanding. The example, well known, is the invention of the automobile, electricity, and steam engines. In the 1960’s mariner was blessed to meet a very few old timers (codgers?) who spent most of their lives on farms with horses for transportation and kerosene for light. This example illustrates well how the speed of life, the confrontation with new technically driven habits and new life priorities can leave a senior person in a quandary about behavior and morality. One fellow mariner spoke with was proud of the fact that even in 1964 he had never been more than 54 miles from his home. So much for modern travel opportunity (How many of us disdain that damned smartphone – talk about a technically driven change in social behavior!).

To finish this line of thought, from 1890 to 1964 was a disruption of morality, social upheaval, human value, technically driven lifestyle changes (telephone, radio, TV, computers, commercial flight, and interstate highways just to mention a few totally new influences on daily priorities) that happened faster and more completely than any era shift in history. The entire shift, unlike the Reformation or the Industrial Revolution, happened well within a single lifetime. If one were alive between 1900 and 1964, there were a lot of lifestyle issues that had to be reinvented several times. Folks who lived through those years, were they still alive, could help today’s generations cope. Yes, we are in the midst of another era change – at the speed of light.

Today’s new era shift began in 1980. As happens so frequently with the birth of a new age, entrepreneurs and profiteers leverage newly turned fiscal opportunities. The entire economic ethic shifted toward corporatism and toward investment profit more than direct business profit. Today, of course, we struggle with a growing oligarchy. From 1980 to today, workers have not participated in GDP; salaries generally are only 40 percent of what they should be if adjusted for inflation. Further, the age of oil has affected the environment and weather; it is not under control. Again further, the Internet has abolished privacy and individuality. Finally, artificial intelligence will completely redefine the meaning of work, income, individual security in all its manifestations and even the international politics we are familiar with today – all in the reader’s lifetime.

So. Mariner’s disdain for the electorate, the pew Christians, and all the nation’s elected officials is the result of codgerism. This is not his era. Where are Nat King Cole, Patsy Cline and Elvis? They sang in English. What happened to union negotiations? What happened to salaries? Want to know why it takes two income producers to sustain a family? They’ve been robbed of their share of income from their nation’s economy. Want to know why an eight-year old narcissist was elected President? The country is screwed up. What all old codgers have in common is the wisdom of living a lifetime, finally absorbing some decent cultural values, and not easily swayed by gimmickry. True, these merits may not take us to the future but they just may help with fairness and grace; factors that aren’t dependent on economic opportunity.

The ancient codger offers some issues the disadvantaged electorate may want to tackle to make life in the new AI age friendlier:

֎ The US will continue to falter until, above all else, we first celebrate our commonality rather than our differences.

֎ Make the redistricting process politician-free and base it on simple geographic and population formulas.

֎ Automate voting to eliminate voting suppression schemes. Anyone should be able to vote at the drop of a hat. Some nations fine voters for not participating and pay them when they do.

֎ Forget term limitations. In times of great change, our leaders must have grown up in the age at hand. The current legislative bodies are full of codgers. Set an age limit for running for office; perhaps 60.

֎ It will require extreme effort but success is crucial. Remove money from elections and governance by imposing caps and limiting contributions to the districts in question. While we’re at it, put heavy penalties on lobby contributions.

֎ Remove the banks from their role of dominating the economy and its profits. Profit must come from the work of the people, not the wealth of the autocrats.

 ֎ The great abuse of the AI era will be discounting humanness. Today, AI already has made major moves to eliminate human individuality as a legitimate factor in the evolution of society.

Mariner understands the resistance caused by his age. But he ain’t stupid. The electorate shouldn’t be stupid either.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Philosophy Recipe: Stir and Bake a Long Time

Philosophers are underappreciated. To most of us, embroiled in the intense competitions of the present to make a living, raise children, and root for the Chicago Bears, philosophers are too droll, write boring stuff and write in a dense, laborious style. However, it is philosophers who set the stage for what we believe, what is moral, what the value of life is, and invent the glue that makes sense of human culture. As a new era of history begins, it is philosophers that set the compass.

If one went to college or had an excellent history class in high school, one is aware of the Age of Enlightenment. References set the dates of enlightenment between 1650 and 1800 AD. Notable names of the era, philosophers all, are Bacon, Descartes, Hume, Voltaire, Grotius, Rousseau, Spinoza, Hobbes, Newton, and many more; check Wikipedia or your library for detailed contributions.

We should note that the philosophical burst previous to the Age of Enlightenment lasted over 700 years from about 650 BC to the time of Christ and included Xenophanes, Socrates, Plato, Euclid, Aristotle and others; again reference Wikipedia for more detail. From the time of Christ until about 1500, authoritarians, pragmatists and utilitarians took over to form the Holy Roman Empire and the Dark Ages. The philosophical growth during this time leaned more to the standardization of religious philosophy and practice. Little profound technical or economical change occurred except for mechanical improvements to daily life such as improved water and sewage and the beginning of practical medicine.

As mentioned, religious practices also are cyclic. Comparing historical cycles, Saint Augustine and the Nicene Council occurred in the third century AD; the Holy Roman Empire was established in 800, the Reformation began to emerge in 1500 and today religion worldwide of every spiritual inclination is under duress as pantheism grows in popularity.

Back to the Age of Enlightenment, toward the end of that Age, the Industrial Revolution emerged, throwing labor-based economics to the wind. Needless to say today in similar times, the underlying progress of science, technology, communication, relatively improved education and a newly discovered spherical world led to a hodge-podge of government theories, economic models and disruption in social class stability that cyclically reoccurs across all of human history.

Assuming a harmonic cycle of history, lasting about 600 years give or take, history indeed repeats itself. Comparing cycles (the last one started around 1550-1600), we today are at the point of the Luddite labor rebellion in 1811, the food shortage/population explosion during the Napoleonic wars in 1803-1815, and the Civil War in 1860. In other words, there is cultural turmoil among the masses. Old values, particularly related to human values versus economics, have shifted sufficiently that previous behaviors seem unproductive.

It often is difficult to make sense of the evolution of cultural value because we can’t see the forest for the trees. Events occur every day around the world that shift philosophy, religion and culture tiny bit by tiny bit. A simple example is moving from marriages arranged by families to sacramental marriages to freewill marriages to homosexual marriages to increasing numbers of legally-based marriages sanctioned by the State. Shifts occur event by event, conflict by conflict, official recognition by official recognition. Change is not a consistent path: there are ups and downs, movement is forward and backward.

With a little distance in time, however, one can identify the evolving harmonic cycle. Today, it may be difficult to identify the current harmonic cycle because of all the trees but there are signs – as confusing to us as signs for early H. sapiens during the Iron Age, Baal worshipers 600 years before Christ, Dark Age serfs, the Luddites, and the Reaganites.

Further, there are many similarities between recent lifestyle improvements and those lifestyle improvements that occurred during the Roman Empire. It may be an intellectual reach but in terms of improved daily life, radio, television, air conditioning, plastic and the invention of the combustion engine may be comparable to an easier life in Roman times. Also similar is the lack of a tour de force of philosophers during the Roman era. Noted a few paragraphs ago, the occurrence of a philosophical era did not happen from the time of Christ until the Age of Enlightenment. Daily comfort easily displaces the need for a new philosophy of life. Fortunately, cage boxing, baseball and curling have replaced savage entertainment at the Coliseum.

Will we, in this modern cycle without a philosophical era, suffer the lack of philosophic discipline? As we shift from technical reality to Artificial Intelligence as reality, will we have a new philosophy to hold together unfamiliar ethics, economies, human values and a new harmonic cycle?

Understand that futurists are not philosophers. Futurists predict events and conditions; philosophers interpret and create ideas. Lacking a philosophical groundswell to guide us in this harmonic cycle, will we suffer corporations as we suffered the authoritative behavior of the Holy Roman Church? Will we be forgotten like serfs during the Dark Ages? Many educated and respected futurists, including the renown Yuval Noah Harari, fear that as corporatism separates from humanism as a reason to sustain profits, the wellbeing of ‘useless’ humans will suffer simply because they aren’t needed. Sadly, this is normal behavior throughout history. Today, marketing to more humans means more profits. In the future, it is likely that profit will be built into the corporate model because corporations will control human value without human preferences.

So it is, without a bond of philosophic interpretation, that our next generations must deal with rootless perceptions of what is right, what is moral, what is just. It is the wild, wild west all over again. Oh, for a philosopher’s recipe.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

To Every Thing There is a Season

Mariner opened his email account to read new mail. He opened the New Yorker email to find a sad, poetic article by David Remnick. It is about the slow decline of football. Mariner played football from the age of eleven to twenty-nine in recreation leagues, high school, college and semi-pro. It was and still is an important emotional base in his life. Older men regret loss of the capability or right to have sex, smoke cigars, drink bourbon, lift very heavy objects and climb ladders . . . mariner, too, suffers these absences and further he regrets that never again will he play football.

Yet, the truth is out; football can and usually does cause C.T.E. (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). A long list of mental inabilities is included in CTE, most of them end in death. Parents are asking the same question posed about boxing decades ago only this time it’s about football: Do you want your kids to play football?

It is a kind eulogy, like petting a dying dog gently on the head. Mariner recommends the pleasure of reading David’s article. See:

 https://www.newyorker.com/news/sporting-scene/footballs-long-eclipse?mbid=nl_Daily%20020318%20Control&CNDID=49421095&spMailingID=12871100&spUserID=MTg3Njg2NDM4MTg0S0&spJobID=1340252035&spReportId=MTM0MDI1MjAzNQS2

Ancient Mariner

 

 

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