The Big Picture

Like the scene on the battlefront in a war, there is much smoke, flying debris, destruction and conflict, but the scene is a battle for the ethos of the United States. Mariner decided to get above the commotion by sitting on one of 8,000 satellites in low Earth orbit and looking down at the fray.

Battles for ethos occur, on average, every 61 years. Unfortunately, every change in ethos included a military war.[1] The nation has begun another battle for ethos, launched by the election of Donald Trump.

Ethos is a word that describes the innate spirit and purpose of an institution; in this case the institution is the United States. Ethos is an attitude carried by every citizen without conscious awareness yet it shapes the self-perception of what every citizen believes is a national role in society, morality and among other nations.

The political energy required to shift a national ethos is immense. It takes time, economic transition, generational adaptation, international acceptance and a period of stability. Even so, there are citizens who continue to oppose change for many reasons, e.g., racism and, currently, Reaganomics. In each transition of ethos there are always progressives and conservatives but a third issue is necessary – usually requiring cultural adaptation. Today, it is the global pressure on the role of a nation where technology ignores boundaries and global warming threatens global economics.

When will military war occur? It seems there is a point where the old ways want no more change and like the way things are whereas new behaviors, economic opportunity and moral stress want to move on.

Will war emerge in Taiwan and the Pacific Rim?

Will extended war erupt in Europe versus Russia?

Is it possible that war could erupt in the U.S. between populated states and Dixie all over again – a war fought in the Constitution?

Could it be an economic war between plutocracy and democracy?

Sitting on this satellite, mariner perceives one thing: It is far from over.

Ancient Mariner

[1] Independence 1776, Civil 1861, WW1 1914, Vietnam, 1975, in process 2016.

Emotive Learning – 2

An astute reader is aware that certain emotional behaviors seem not to be dependent on emotive learning as much as others. An appropriate response would be too long for a ’comment’ response so a posted response is provided in case other readers have the same insight.

If there is a fault in mariner’s writing style, it is that he over simplifies bulky, textbook information by using simplistic metaphors and excessively anthropomorphic examples. So here is some textbook information:

We might have a reaction to seeing someone we know with emotional circumstances or have irate thoughts about some event or information. Whatever level of complex emotion we are having, these feelings are handled by the limbic system.[1] The limbic system consists of four areas:

Amygdala, Hippocampus, Thalamus and Hypothalamus


We can thank our amygdala for our “fight or flight” response. But the amygdala does more than tell us to scream or quake in horror. The amygdala is always on the lookout for arousing cues. (In psychology, “arousal” is used to describe a sense of alertness and consciousness. We can reach high levels of arousal for good and not-so-good reasons.) Once these cues are discovered, the amygdala sends out signals to activate our “motivational circuitry.”


The hippocampus is primarily responsible for making memories, but it also influences our emotions. We attach emotions to memories all the time. The stronger the emotion, the more likely we are to recall that memory.

(The part of the brain alluded to in mariner’s term ‘emotive learning’)

This area of the brain handles receiving sensory information. Many emotions begin with sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste. Once our eyes, ears, skin, tongue, and nose pick up on those stimuli, they send up information to the thalamus and we begin to make sense of what is in front of us.


When we have highly emotional moments, we can thank our hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is key in keeping our bodies in homeostasis (stabilized) and releasing hormones such as adrenaline.

Mariner could go on and teach textbook psychology, but this should suffice as a response to the reader’s observation. Mariner’s post was an attempt to question whether blocking the Thalamus in our daily interactions was a good thing.

Ancient Mariner


[1] Mariner credits the website which has its own form of simplification and is used universally by psychology institutions:

Emotive Learning

Very simply, emotive learning is something that happens in the subconscious; it is the function that converts conscious, real-world, three-dimensional experience into feelings. An easy example: From the day a baby is born, it experiences the real world for what it is but it learns to have special feelings about its mother because of the role the mother plays in providing security, affection, bonding and other intimate behaviors. The baby has subconsciously created a set of feelings with which to relate to and understand their real-world mother.

Without emotive learning we would be incapable of interacting with the material world. Existentialism would not exist. Behaviors related to ethics, empathy, fairness, and being aware of threatening situations could not exist; the idea of ‘family’ could not exist.

There is a number called ‘Dunbar’s Number’ which states that a person can individually relate to approximately 150 people. This capability comes along with a genome that makes us a tribal creature. The brain is sensitive to the role of other people – especially if there is an expected alliance with them.

An experiment that will expose the constant focus of emotive learning is comparing how you think and feel when talking directly to another person and that the brain is constantly scanning behavior, environment and surrounding circumstances which in turn generate feelings about that person. On the other hand, talk to the same person using Facetime. There is a sensation that there is desired searching that is not available.

Feelings derived through emotive learning are the seed for experiencing empathy and, in conjunction with cultural feelings, compassion. Feelings derived through emotive learning are the source for any type of person-to-person bonding, respect, and familial (tribal) association.

In this century, many scientists who study social behavior have begun to write books and articles about the impact of automated communication and whether the blocked availability for emotive learning is contributing to the general consternation of these times. A simple commercial example is the kiosk for ordering food in a fast food restaurant rather than determining what to eat while talking to another person. There is no sense of common purpose when using the kiosk but when engaging another human there is a subtle sense of unity (AKA tribal identification).

Can a person be the product of emotive learning and at the same time be identified as a statistic in a database?

Ancient Mariner

It is over.

The battle to sustain individuality and Homo sapiens authenticity has been won by AI. Watch the following clip then read on:

Already AI is good enough to write novels, essays, legal briefs and singlehandedly manage most trades on the stock exchange. The ability for anyone to write any style of entertainment is just one database away.

With the invention of the gene splitter Crispr, AI will be able to pool all human variations into a massive database so parents can pick any child they want. Who wants a Donald Trump lookalike? How about triplets that are the Kingston Trio?

But then AI will perceive that it is much simpler to have one version of humans; just think how efficient that would be for politics, medicine, and one would need only one football team.

Perhaps it will be less expensive if humans had no need to travel.

Welcome to Matrix.


Ancient Mariner


The conflagration of our global society continues unabated. Around the world political leadership is absent. In the US, governments at all levels are narcissistic; while Rome burns, Missouri is preoccupied with what women can wear to the legislature; abortion medication, clearly a private and personal situation is threatened by legislatures unaware of the real, critical issues that face the American citizen. Housing alone is a devastating issue far beyond a family’s ability to manage.

But we already know this. The cultural war that began over slavery continues today. It was as keenly about economics as it was about race; today economics still remains a divided issue between Dixie/isolationist states and highly populated/industrial states. For most of the nation’s history this cultural impasse has smoldered but in just a few decades modern telecommunication has allowed verbal armies to form instantaneously and reach every State. The American culture reeks of rotting oligarchs, gun murderers, increasing starvation, homelessness and obstructionists who destroy society rather than fix it. But we already know this.

The new ingredient is speed. Changing culture, economics, classism and standards of morality are flying through very little time at very high speed. Can the reader count the individual wing strokes of a hummingbird feeding at a flower? Is our same unknown factor, speed of change, an added consternation? Is the increased angst caused because we can’t step through change? Rather, it is stepping through us and not waiting for our judgment.

No one, not the citizenry, not Congress, not State legislatures, not Wall Street manipulators, has been able to harness this stallion of change. It runs free with virtually no control. How far afield will the stallion run before it is caught and reined into usefulness?

We stand aside and watch massive corporations take over government functions.

We watch forlornly as storefronts go the way of horse and buggy.

We shudder as powerful communication devices steal the dynamism of individuality.

We cower as incompetent governments hurt our lives more than they help.

Will it all end in apocalypse? Will it suddenly rise out of the night like a bright Sunrise? Who knows?

Let’s try to count those hummingbird wings to give us some insight.

Ancient Mariner


Do you have CCTV in your home?

Mariner knows most of his readers are calloused to the abuses of privacy but perhaps one should know about another nosy source:

Smart TVs are just like search engines, social networks, and email providers that give us a free service in exchange for monitoring us and then selling that info to advertisers leveraging our data. These devices are collecting information about what you’re watching, how long you’re watching it, and where you watch it, then selling that data—which is a revenue stream that didn’t exist a couple of years ago. There’s nothing particularly secretive about this—data-tracking companies such as Inscape and Samba proudly brag right on their websites about the TV manufacturers they partner with and the data they amass.

The companies that manufacture televisions call this “post-purchase monetization,” and it means they can sell TVs almost at cost and still make money over the long term by sharing viewing data. In addition to selling your viewing information to advertisers, smart TVs also show ads in the interface. Roku, for example, prominently features a given TV show or streaming service on the right-hand side of its home screen—that’s a paid advertisement.

Whatever you’re watching on your smart TV, algorithms are tracking your habits – when you watch, how long you watch, what you watch . . . This influences the ads you see on your TV, yes, but if you connect your Google or Facebook account to your TV, it will also affect the ads you see while browsing the web on your computer or phone. In a sense, your TV now isn’t that different from your Instagram timeline or your TikTok recommendations. There’s an old joke: “In America, you watch television; in Soviet Russia, television watches you!” In 2022, TVs track your activity to an extent the Soviets could only dream of.[1]

Today this is old hat privacy invasion to us. It’s the projections into future capabilities for controlling life decisions that is dangerous. As more and more data about social status, religious affiliation, medical detail, personal fetishes, 24-hour awareness of our location, a history of one’s purchasing habits, genetic history – – can be combined to effectively eliminate a need for the gumption mariner often refers to. Humans are one step closer to a Matrix life. Maybe in a recliner instead of a coffin but still a Matrix life.

Ancient Mariner

[1] Adapted from Atlantic Magazine.

Just between you and your yard


The carbon wave is getting close. Is your yard grill the best choice? Output at the end of the process, that is, as your 10 filet Mignon cuts turn brown, has been measured:

Gas grills win hands down. In an hour charcoal briquettes emit 11 pounds of CO2 while gas emits 5.6 pounds. Further, briquettes aren’t just wood; briquettes have additives that are not good to breathe. But even authentic wood, which is biodegradable, loses to gas. Like the US Government, (a prime example of divided forever opinion) advocates of charcoal have a low opinion of gas as a flavor enhancer. However, scientists suggest that smoke and briquette debris may change flavor during longer cooking times but in truth is not noticeable.

[Mariner’s personal experience suggests that if a cook needs hot, hot temperatures, for example in an old fashioned Weber kettle grill, charcoal produces a better fire – but this has nothing to do with taste.]


Everyone likes trees until the leaves fall. For several weeks the leaves blow about like loose trash, getting caught in everything from roof gutters to shrubbery to lawns and sidewalks. It is true that in urban areas there may not be a tree in sight, not in whole blocks or neighborhoods. But in more suburban and rural areas, trees and open yards are de rigueur. And so are fallen leaves.

It has been tradition, in the likeness of a Norman Rockwell painting, that each neighbor would gather leaves into a pile and burn them. While this still is practiced generally, many towns and cities have begun a ‘yard waste’ collection day to recycle leaves, branches and typical lawn and garden waste. Some towns have ordinances against burning leaves (and trash barrels).

This new pressure is raised for climate change reasons. Rather than burn leaves and thereby participating with grills in CO2 production, shred them into little pieces and put them into a compost pit or spread them directly into garden patches and lawns. By spring most of the leaves should be well into decomposition and preventing excess CO2 from escaping into the atmosphere.


Many folks still use old fashioned yard tools that require arm and shoulder labor in order to function. Manufacturers, however, have a different vision of yard tools. For most of mariner’s life, gasoline powered equipment was the answer. Still, a person had to separate a shoulder to get the single-cycle engine to fire up. Today things are changing quickly. “In the name of climate change” manufacturers are pushing battery-powered equipment. It is smaller, lighter, self-starting and typically requires a Lithium battery. As the reader may have read in the news, Lithium is a scarce element. So we will see what future prices will look like for toy-sized equipment. A devotee of gasoline powered equipment can still find whatever they may need – for the price of a 2022 Chrysler Town and Country van.

All said, gardening is an excellent pasttime that gets you back to nature, gets you outside and works the old bones a bit. Give it a try while watching over your shoulder for climate change.

Ancient Mariner


A few days ago, mariner visited his audiologist. In rural America, visiting the nearest audiologist means driving forty miles. Audiology along with dentistry, optometry and pharmacology are not covered under Medicare – but that’s another issue. The issue today is, upon whom does the fault lie when those who are hard of hearing ask someone to repeat something?
Interesting fact: mariner can listen to Jane Pauley on ‘Sunday Morning’ (CBS) without hearing aids! [Isn’t that trumpet introduction wonderful?!] Interesting fact: 99 percent of all other speaking people require mariner to wear hearing aids to understand them and with 60 percent of those folks, no hearing aid in the world would help.
Yet society promotes the judgment that the hearing disabled are dysfunctional, old, demented, crippled and generally useless. The hearing disabled cannot think, see, drive or order from a menu; socially, they are useless – a person can say something to them and all they can say is “What?”.
Mariner cannot deny the elements of aging, but the communication failure does not lie with the hard-of-hearing. Otherwise, how could mariner ever understand Jane Pauley without hearing aids? The issue at hand is not hearing but speaking.
One of mariner’s oldest examples:
Someone says “ōwee”. Even the hearing might ask, “What?”. The person repeats with mild disdain and says more specifically, “kōwee”. Being argumentative, mariner would ask again and ask that it be said more slowly. Obviously irritated and judgmental, the person says loudly, “SKOEET”. Given the typical brain pause of the hard-of-hearing, mariner deduces the English words: “Let’s go eat”. Skoeet means Let’s go eat!
Try again: “jeetjet?”. At this point, an endless list of lazy, unexhaled, tongue-in-place-of lips or teeth, whispering volume and disappearing predicate clauses can be had. Just a few:
Prolly, ancha, peshly, ombich, iite, and endless more slurring examples of two and especially three words compressed into one rolling noise. There are a few noticeable patterns:
When grinning, most consonants stay in the mouth and never make it to the teeth or lips. Lip reading is useless when people are grinning.
Very frequently people do not take a breath at the beginning of a sentence. This leads to very soft enunciation and the disappearance of audible volume altogether by the end of the sentence. Very soft voices do not even use the diaphragm. Mariner remembers a woman that was angry and started by shouting “I TOLD HER that I didn’t want this . . . inaudible.
We want to talk as quickly as we are thinking by using a rhythm to talk rather than using rules of enunciation. Unlike Jane, who gives each word and syllable its independent time and space, most of us use dominant vowels as a beat – the rest of the word be damned. Spaces between words are a waste of time and require added discipline. A different type of rhythm counterpoint to Jane’s speaking rhythm can be heard by listening to a field reporter recounting a news item; articulation may be passable but zero time between words would make any listener stop to separate the syllables.
To make matters quite a bit more difficult for the hard-of-hearing, people will turn away while speaking, or ramble on while they go into another room or talk while the television is on but the worst is when two people talk at the same time. This is more frequent than one would think – even normal hearing people have trouble in this situation.
So the point is the old one from the Bible: “Caste the mote from thine own mouth before judging others.” Mariner knows he has a disability but it does not deserve casdnashn.

Ancient Mariner

On Living Alone

In recent weeks mariner has been living alone, a solitary human, a shut-in. During the holiday season his wife has been off visiting their far-flung children for weeks at a time. This is an opportunity for mariner to study the circumstances that confront those who live alone – especially late in life.

It is true that being alone induces depression. It is true that electronic entertainment does not require a conscious, focused brain. It is true that mental and physical disabilities inevitably affect brain function.

To oversimplify, there is an immense force that pushes down on a person living in solitude; gumption quickly will disappear, the energy and eventually the ability to focus on existential experiences is drained from the body. The recliner, television and simple meals become 24 hour diversions. An individual must be able to resist this downward pressure. Survival depends on two things: staying busy in some manner, whether simple chores, hobby interests or leaving the house. The second thing is social interaction. Being old and infirm makes it doubly hard to engage in these activities but the alternative is a quietly dying brain and increased immobility.

Some activities that mariner pursued:

֎ Catch the daily news headlines then turn off the television until evening. Set the smartphone aside. Dress for the weather and go outside. Walk. Arrange visits with neighbors. Lounge in a diner where other loners gather. Tend the gardens. Schedule medical appointments. Even better, find ways to help others. This will be hard to do at first – stick with it.

֎ Make it a point to have several hobbies that pass time each day: Read, engage in hand crafts, write a daily diary, try a new recipe, clear out years of junk in storage areas, go shopping for a new hat. Paint something; artwork or walls – it doesn’t matter. Buy a new piece of furniture.

֎ Remember the euphemism “job jar”? It is an endless collection of things that need to be done but, in fact, would never get done. Living in solitude is a great time to drain the job jar. Making a list helps with getting started. Be careful of listing major, complicated jobs – stay focused on day-to-day tasks.

The hard part is to ‘get up and do it!’ Along with sitting in the recliner, one can muse about doing something – maybe tomorrow. . . a false sense of accomplishment.

If one is able to generate the activity mentioned, they genuinely will be tired at the end of the day and they will have exercised mind and body – and they will avoid the immense force that otherwise would diminish their life.

The above lists seem to imply high energy and achievement but that is not the case. The pace is leisurely but steady; the trick is to do things that require the mind to keep up with what you are doing.

֎ But there is a more important activity. Humans are a tribal species. Many sociological studies have shown that humans are an extended family creature. Modern economics has created the nuclear family – husband, wife, and a few children. This is not the normal or, frankly, the subconsciously desired life. If one is fortunate enough to have an extended family close by, take every opportunity to participate in family activities. This responsibility extends beyond the person living alone to every member of the family.

Mariner can speak from experience. Until he was nine years old, he had many aunts, uncles and cousins on both sides of his family. The maternal side was a twenty-minute walk away and the fraternal side was a half-hour away by commuter train! Virtually every holiday included some kind of gathering and birthdays were big parties. Fate took a turn in his life; suddenly he had only a grandmother, father and little brother. He still misses the big gatherings!

It may be necessary to manufacture a family. Churches often have social clubs for older folks; restaurants often are a gathering place; public service agencies have special events for solitary residents; those who live in multiple family housing often form unofficial clusters for company.

The infirm can’t always participate. A healthy community will have ways to draw the infirm into social activity. In other words, extended family works both ways: try to bring the whole tribe together. If an individual can’t come to you, take the family to them.

It is inevitable that everyone dies. But as individuals live past genetically influenced lifespans, they must consciously and deliberately take countermeasures to offset both physical and mental degradation.

The wife returns tomorrow.

Ancient Mariner


Brian Bilson

Mariner’s wife, as regular readers know, is a lifetime librarian, ardent reader and a published journalist and poet. She follows many poets, authors and journalists. The other day she offered a piece by Brian Bilson that is unique. Read below:

They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you and me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cutthroats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way

—-> Now read from bottom up


Let’s all wish for a better 2023

Ancient Mariner