Those moments

Everyone has moments of bliss, of complete satisfaction, perhaps even grace. One cannot select these moments, they happen unannounced, but they are rewarding. Sometimes, it’s just a moment with a loved one or a deep appreciation of a child. Sometimes it’s when one is alone, sitting in the midst of nature’s wilderness. Sometimes, it is the joy of making another life better. Sometimes, it’s just a realization of fulfillment in a familiar surrounding.

Mariner and his wife had a similar experience sitting in their backyard, a garden respite from garages, concrete parking pads and streets. Sunlight was fading, sparrows, robins, doves, blackbirds and squirrels went about their individual lives. Having these moments is like a soothing salve on one’s soul.

But those moments are brief. ‘Real’ life calls us back.  In that moment of recall, what does one feel? Is it anxiety? Duty? Contentment? Desire? Motivation? Does one retreat to depression or leap to ambition? Generally, all these sensations are in a bag labeled ‘accountability’. One is conscious of these feelings because a moment ago they were suppressed by a moment of bliss.

What accountability does one feel toward self, family, community, the nation and the sacred world of spirituality? It is important to note which accountability emerges first. This obligation is important and requires action of some nature. Based on one’s motivations, it may be to load the dishwasher, call one’s senator or see to the well being of a family member.

The moment of bliss should provide great healing power to the self, a comfort in family, a friendship with the community, a responsibility to the nation, and an allegiance to one’s source of spirituality.

It may be helpful to search for places where on can let go of the real world for a moment and restore a unified sense of one’s life experience.

Ancient Mariner

 

Wafting thoughts

֎ Several weeks ago mariner read an article about why old people don’t wash. ‘don’t wash’ isn’t an absolute term; the article was suggesting that cleanliness became more arbitrary and a matter of necessity rather than maintaining cultural norms for cleanliness. The larger point was that it is the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries that set social norms. When at work, we may feel obligated to shave or smell a certain way or perhaps not wear jeans or certain styles of clothing. When retired from the daily obligations of society, old folks don’t feel the need to maintain a supply of different odors, sixteen different teeth whiteners and unnecessary chemicals to alter wrinkles and eye shadow. A bar of soap, a tube of toothpaste, maybe a deodorant if the oldster is wearing diapers; maybe a sponge bath at the sink instead of showers.

The article reinforced the notion that, if any influence can reach the subconscious, our behavior will be modified. It is job one for the subconscious to adapt to the external world – that is a critical survival skill. It’s just that the external world is jammed with artificial information to take money from you or get you to vote a certain way, or maybe marry someone you saw on the smartphone. Those $1,000 sneakers would sure make me look good! It’s all about surviving in the real world – however humans choose to define it.

֎ Culling through several polls over recent weeks, he saw that a noticeable percentage of Gen Z (today aged 12-27) were favoring Donald. On those occasions when the respondents were interviewed, their feelings were that everything was a mess and, more importantly, no one seems to be fixing anything – perhaps Donald appears more rambunctious and may at least try. Gen Z choices reflected other perspectives as well, a new generation whose roots are not buried in the soil of Reagan’s indifference toward labor, feel more liberal about social mores (homosexuals, abortion, importance of college, and don’t carry the scars of the past century, etc.). Mariner assumes that Gen Z is more accustomed to 21st century electronics thereby not being as distracted as older generations may be. It’s all about surviving in the real world – however humans choose to define it.

֎ The economic, scientific and environmental objectives affected by global warming are producing a Shakespearean drama. Each emphasis is taking independent paths in response to the claims (and current validations) of a warming planet. Each claims that it’s approach is the only moral path to managing the climate. Economics is trying very hard to pretend it is helping by inventing new processes for offsetting the impact of fossil fuels by storing gases in the ocean, for example.

The scientific approach is exploring new ideas like blocking the Sun’s heat in the atmosphere, growing food in miles-large greenhouses with recycled water and vertical gardens and incorporating useless deserts and swamps to support endless solar panels.

The environmentalists are planting trees, promoting home gardening on the front lawn, advocating changes in people’s habits relating to water usage and reducing food dependence on herd animals – or better yet, become a vegan. Environmentalists also pursue re-balancing nature, e.g., reintroduce wolves in Wyoming, saving the polar bear and curtailing dependence on seafood.

Each approach is pursued with an ethical assumption about how to make the world cooler. Yet the approaches are distinctly different in how they would change human behavior. For example, economists would say “continue to drive cars”, scientists would say “Don’t worry, we’ll invent something new” and environmentalists would say “Turn back the behavior of humans”.

Stay tuned, all three  will make entertaining news.

Ancient Mariner

Myth and Mystery are alive and well

In today’s email was a news item about a new direction in data gathering. Everyone is aware that Google is King Snoop on the internet today but a new data source is growing that may challenge Google’s monopoly. Microsoft, among others, is launching AI data gathering software that can search ChatGPT products, adding scope to BING, Microsoft’s smaller version of Google.

Already, serious internet users have a number of sophisticated search engines similar to COPILOT which can search online documents for substance, not just a noun phrase.

This is comforting. Already we know that ‘official’ documents like term papers, legal agreements and corporate reports that have been produced by ChatGPT have serious errors and lack comprehension. It’s as though humans actually wrote these documents themselves. Now AI is adding second generation software that can interpret these ChatGPT documents. Does this compound the confusion? Is Donald’s Truth Social produced by this new software?

There is a mental disorder called savant syndrome (street term ‘Idiot Savant’). These are folks who have difficulty with the substantive experiences of daily life but are true experts about one small, narrow subject, truly beyond the capability of a ‘normal’ person. While the savant’s expertise in a narrow subject can’t be replicated, certainly AI is creating the ‘idiot’ portion.

So life will go on just like the old days before the internet – a world based on myths, misunderstandings and mysteries that emerge from nowhere – just like humans.

There is comfort in that.

Ancient Mariner

Midlife

Another chapter from a book mariner wrote 25 years ago about what’s important and forgot he wrote it! Must not have been important . This chapter continues the theme of what is important in different stages of life.

Mid-life
Perhaps the hardest age game is the mid-life game. The mid-life game is important to folks from about forty-two to fifty-eight and being a true existentialist really helps. This is a strange and challenging game. As usual, what’s important is anything that’s not really important. What’s important is the hair that’s not there, the career that won’t happen, the young girl who isn’t interested, and the prince who won’t come. What’s important in this game is what the shopping malls, automobiles and other augmentations can do to hide the rapidly climbing years. You can’t look backward to vitality and forward to wisdom at the same time. But you remember the thirties games. To hell with wisdom. Naturally, it’s the wisdom that’s actually important about mid-life: you’re old enough to be wise and young enough to have the energy to put it to use.
The mid-life game has gambits (a word from chess that means going out on a limb), a technique which other ages don’t use very much. Some examples are: extramarital affair, divorce, changing career, obsessing about something that is not important, like immaculate lawns or golf, and even some scary gambits like alcohol and abandonment. Each gambit is a deliberate way of looking for what’s important. These gambits are dangerous because what seemed important before isn’t important any more and what’s important now may not be important later. That’s why it’s called a gambit. It is possible to come out ahead but it’s a chancy way to find out what’s important. Someone almost always gets hurt during these gambits — including you.
So much for looking back to the virile thirties. If you make it through the mid-life game intact, it’s on to wisdom.

Next: Sixties and seventies

Ancient Mariner

Athens but not the Greek one

Mariner and his wife were enjoying a wonderful, sunny day with comfortable temperatures. “Why don’t we go on an outing”, his wife said. “You don’t have anything to do, do you?” Mariner said, “No.” (Of course they were lying; each had gallon job jars stuffed to overflowing). An ‘outing’ is an occasional adventure they take just to get out. Typically, they would look for small, out-of-the-way spots not on the normal tourist path. One time they decided to visit Oquawka, a river town in Illinois. When they arrived, the town had not made it through the COVID pandemic. Every store and business was closed except a riverfront restaurant.

Recently, they decided to visit a nearby historical spot: Athens, Missouri. The reader may remember that Missouri was okay with slaves but some of the population wanted to secede while the rest wanted to stay in the Union.  During the Civil war, Athens was a small town that suffered a battle between town citizens because some wanted to secede, others did not.

What makes Athens relevant is that the town is directly across the Des Moines river from Croton, Iowa. Iowa’s participation in the combat action of the Civil War amounted to a cannon ball that inadvertently made it across the river from Athens.

The Athens State Park is a pleasant visit. The grounds and few remaining buildings are well cared for. But the accounting of the skirmish between town residents made mariner think.

Whether Trump wins or not, could there be a release of ‘feelings’ that would entice riots, attacks on organizations supporting strong opinions, and even street fighting with guns?

Times certainly are a-changing.

Ancient Mariner

A different puzzle

Today’s puzzle is not about algorithms or lateral thinking; it’s about introspective thinking about who the reader is and how they may not be the same person under different circumstances. Read the following from Politico about Carlos Moreno who proposes a new concept for city living.

LIVEABLE CITIES: Carlos Moreno is best known as the man who pioneered the concept of the 15-minute city — the idea that people should be able to access all essentials like work, food and leisure within a 15-minute walk or bike ride. A Professor at the Sorbonne University in Paris, he’ll launch his new book, “The Fifteen Minute City: A Solution to Saving Our Time and Our Planet,” today at the conference.

“The idea is that we need a radical change to our lifestyle and our work style,” he explained in an interview. “The central paradigm of most of the 20th century — inspired by LeCorbusier — was “zonification” where there were residential areas, cultural areas, etc. Rethinking this, relocalizing work for example, has ecological, economic and social benefits.”

So, the puzzle for the reader is to imagine how many ways your life values would change if everything in your life (that is not online) was within fifteen minutes of your front door. Don’t forget entertainment, sports, your workplace and what neighbors you would have.

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Give yourself about an hour or so to ponder, then read this paragraph:

“What we’re finding is that the environment in which you grow up, the neighborhood in which you live, the people you’re connected to, the schools and colleges you go to — all these ultimately greatly shape your life trajectory,” he told Playbook. “You take a child and move that child to a different environment, you’ll see completely different life outcomes for those children.” [Harvard economist Raj Chetty ]

Continue the puzzle. How would the reader’s life be different if they were born into a different neighborhood and then add what if their entire life was within fifteen minutes.

Both these ideas remind mariner of the Movie 1984. Throw in computer domination and the movie Matrix comes to mind. Further, they sound like the mouse studies where mice were put in large cages to see what would happen.

Oh, for two ponies and a cart.

Ancient Mariner

Visit with Mariner’s alter-egos

It has been a month or two since mariner visited his alter-egos; their personal perspectives often reveal entirely different realities. So he’ll stop at each ego’s residence to see how they are doing.

Chicken Little is just down the hall because mariner is renting an apartment in his hen house until after the 2024 election. It is a good place to hide because broadcast news on TV is blocked to avoid undue stress. [mariner cheats by going onto the internet]

Mariner asked Chicken Little to give him a general perspective on the United States today.

“You know,” Chicken Little said, “Each day is not fun anymore. Used to be I could wake up in the morning, put on my comb, go out into the yard and just have an easy day with the flock. Now, you have to be careful what you say to a given chicken because the flock is really uptight about so many issues.”

“What bothers you the most?” mariner asked.

“The violence. Chickens don’t have many resources to defend themselves. And I don’t understand why issues like homosexuality and abortion are causing so much conflict. These issues aren’t really the fault of the victims.

“Maybe it’s because the dissenters can’t really address larger issues like the economy and dysfunctional government agencies,” mariner suggested.

“May be.” Chicken Little said. ” But what’s closer to home is gun violence, riots and destructive protests. Thank goodness we chickens have a nice home here but it could be gone in a day because of riots with torches, gunfire, police abuse, tornadoes, and changes in zoning. Most chickens don’t have the resources to start over again.”

Chicken Little was becoming upset so mariner wished him well, left and headed for Amos’s house – mariner’s skeptical alter-ego.

“Hello.” mariner said as he entered the office of Amos. (Amos was named after the prophet Amos in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible). “Hello.” Amos replied. Amos’s office was disheveled, having stacks of newspapers, magazines, books, a television, two phones and a computer. Obviously Amos was an information hound.

Mariner tossed out an obvious conversation starter: “How is the election coming along?” he asked.

“Jesus, mariner, you jump right in the middle, don’t you? I haven’t had the time I’ve wanted to follow the three-year-old and the ghost. I’m too busy trying to keep on top of an all out war in the Middle East, not to mention Taiwan!”

He paused a moment and continued, “And its like Congress doesn’t even know its the twenty-first century – and the courts are trying to recreate the eighteenth century.”

“What’s your biggest concern?” mariner asked.

“Hell, that’s like asking which piece in the garbage do I dislike the most.” He paused. “I think its that corporations and private equity have taken over the economy. Congress is so busy pissing on each other’s shoes that corporations can do whatever they want – and both are ignoring the growing impact of global warming. It is time to modernize tax structure and government spending for a new reality – and get out of paying for wars.”

Amos was becoming flushed. Mariner said goodbye and headed for the home of alter-ego Guru, the theorist member of the team.

Guru has a pleasant but simple home on a hillside in the country. He offered a Croatian red wine as we sat down to talk. “I’ve been visiting the other egos”, mariner said. “I would be interested in hearing your concerns about today’s world.”

“Hmmm, that’s a difficult question to prioritize. In all likelihood, there are four global forces that will require civilization to reconstruct the future of humanity in a way that does not exist at the moment: Not in any specific order, they are population, the relationship between humans and dwindling natural resources, a warming planet combined with solar phenomena from sunbursts to magnetic shifts, and certainly the impact of intensive automation that will affect the daily behavior of human society.”

It was mariner’s turn to pause. He asked, “Will any of the great difficulties facing the world today affect the four issues?”

“No. The end of the twentieth century coincided with deep changes in how society will move forward in the twenty-first century. The most subliminal may be the move toward a global or regional economy rather than a separate economy managed by each nation. Another subliminal shift will be a redefinition of human rights from a global perspective. Both these issues will be difficult to experience and will cause consternation.”

“is this the same as the confrontation between capitalism and socialism?” mariner asked.

Guru replied, ” That is a typical shortsighted question. Just as there was a rewriting of human values during the early Persians, just as there was a rewriting of human values during the Great Awakening, so to will humanity have to ‘rewrite the books’ as they say to provide structure for a global society.”

Mariner could sense that the conversation was getting a little too deep. He finished his Croatian wine and pleasantly said thanks and headed for the door.

It is always interesting to visit the alter-egos; they each have a view of reality at very different altitudes. Mariner appreciates this diversity since the alter-egos have a lot of influence in his posts.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

It’s all about what is important – the thirties

Another in the series taken from a book mariner wrote about 25 years ago. The book addresses the fact that what we think is important is not important. In the section about aging, this extract covers the thirties:

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The Thirties

What’s important about turning thirty is that it’s not important. Turning thirty is like getting a warning ticket from the traffic cop. No real fine, just a warning that a real ticket could happen soon. In fact, at thirty there are many professional and recreational games that present themselves and this is probably what seems most important. Otherwise, being thirty is like going through a second puberty — other than your vitality, you’re not worth a lot to anyone. You’re too old to be young and too young to be experienced.
The most fun is the singles game. The years around thirty are a hodgepodge of coed softball, amateur politics at the office, music, obligatory hours at work, weekends at a beachfront motel with someone, even someone who’s an acquaintance, and sports of all kinds. What’s important is singles bars, sports bars, sports cars and volleyball. The thirties game is important only for a few years but it burns plenty of energy. What’s important when you’re thirty is flaunting your maturity at the late teens and early twenties. You got your warning ticket, though, so you do not want to be older anymore. The thirties game is over when the potbelly emerges and the thighs thicken.
Some thirty year-olds play another game called marriage and kids. Oddly enough, this game passes the twenties and early thirties as rapidly as the singles game. What’s important is a partner who is predictable and dependable and both of you procreating more people to play the age game. While the singles game never lets you forget you’re growing older, the married with kids game lets you forget for a few years. Kids and secondary school make time stand still. The game is over when the potbelly emerges and the thighs thicken — or the kids bail out.

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Stay tuned for middle age.

Ancient Mariner

Reliving your past

Regular readers will recall that mariner and his wife restored their attic, causing massive upheavals of where to store what, what to discard and other disruptive activities for relocating years of unremembered junk.

Add to this the fact that bedrooms and other facilities must be prepared for approaching family and friends visiting from all over the continent. In the midst of this, mariner decided to listen to his GOAT collection. GOAT stands for Greatest Of All Time. He had set aside 100 pieces of music that had become his favorites over the decades; most were rock and roll, some classic moments and a potpourri of generic recordings primarily from the 1950’s, 60s and 70s, one album was from the 40s!

He listened without interruption as each song or instrumental played. After a significant number of songs had played, he began to realize that each song was a key to a buried vault that still contained a genuine moment in life – the event and its emotion was retained in a pure state without the abrasions of time and memory loss.

Does the reader remember their first crush and that special song? Many GOAT songs provoked melancholy about good times – and the good times reoccurred without distortion. Many songs were just a joyful appreciation of good arrangements and favored artists; mariner enjoys any song sung by Fats Domino. Some had moments of genuine admiration for the talent; Michael Crawford in the Phantom of the Opera. Some were moments of celebration; Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary with Mary singing over the top in the climax of ‘Day is Done’. Some songs provided unique insight; mariner had a strange comprehension of eternity when he listened to ‘Ghost Riders in the Skies’ by Frankie Lane. There was one song that opened the vault containing feelings about his mother.

Once your brain realizes that it is wandering in ancient vaults, whole sections of life escape into the conscious mind: great beach parties, winning jitterbug contests, marrying your spouse, playing touch football at an ice skating rink (and being tossed out), and the good old days of football.

So mariner recommends that everyone take a quiet moment somewhere and relive their life – as it really was – by listening to your GOAT.

Ancient Mariner

 

What’s important about your age

A few posts ago it was mentioned that mariner had discovered a book he had written several decades ago that had long been forgotten. He mentioned that he would post a section of the book every once in a while. The title of the book is “What’s it all about? It’s all about what’s important”, the premise being that what we think is important, it’s actually something else. The section below is taken from a chapter about what is important in various ages of our lives.

2. What’s important at your age

It was Longfellow who wrote in A Psalm of Life:
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers
And things are not what they seem.
Life is Real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returneth,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Dreary stuff but very existential. What’s important about existentialism is that life is an exciting game. What’s important about dreary is that it’s dreary. A game metaphor addresses this age business rather well. Games are what’s important about going through life — dreary as it may be.

A game is a game because it masks reality; important things are translated into artificial but very manageable behavior — like going to the movies to be scared rather than going somewhere where you’ll really be scared.

What’s important in aging is the game you play in each phase. The easiest game to recognize is the youngster milking out every drop of maturity by adding the fraction: “I’m ten and three-quarters”. A little later, it’s the teen saying, “Well, seventeen is
just like eighteen”. These early age games are good examples for showing a theme that appears in all the age games: What’s really important is what’s not important. What’s really important about young people is that they are young — but for them, that’s not important; what’s important is that they want to be older.

Twenties

It’s not all about numbers, either. Walk through a college campus sometime — especially if you haven’t been on one in a while. I don’t care what sex you are; the scene will bring you to your knees. These young, virile and fecund bodies unconsciously flaunt their age with energy, intelligence, and sensuality and are wholeheartedly absorbed into their world. You can see their game. And you can see that you’re not playing. Remember you’re an existentialist and move on.

What’s important when you’re in your early twenties is what you’re going to do when you’re older. You have some earth-moving fantasies about this but you truly haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about. What’s really important about the early twenties is how well you can bring the older folks to their knees.

Certain ages have more important games than others. It doesn’t really matter that you’re twenty-four years old. But twenty-one — there’s an age with a million variations. Somehow, drinking alcohol becomes an all right thing; so is being sued and going into debt. And no one’s proven to me that a twenty year-old is any dumber than the rest of the voters who elect our country’s representatives. You are allowed to join the armed services at eighteen and maybe get yourself killed. I suspect there is some ulterior reasoning behind that particular opportunity at that particular age. Eighteen year-olds are prone to think it is important to defend mother and home — or perhaps to get away from mother and home.

Stay tuned to catch what’s important about the thirties.

Ancient Mariner