Birth events have shifted

The AP news service published an article today that is fascinating to think about. AP pointed to statistics that show women in their twenties have put off having children. Instead the average time for having children has crept into the late thirties and forties. In the grand scheme of things, why is this happening?

Wouldn’t our evolutionary processes prevail, that is, becoming pregnant as hormones and independence from parents become active? Mariner’s mother, certainly poor by any comparison, gave birth to him at the age of sixteen and his brother at age twenty. What has caused this move to not have children until the thirties and forties?

The statistics from AP: Fertility rates declined by almost 43% for women between ages 20 and 24 and by more than 22% for women between 25 and 29. At the same time, they increased by more than 67% for women between 35 and 39, and by more than 132% for women between 40 and 44, according to the Census Bureau analysis based on National Center for Health Statistics data.

Direct influences are related to finances. The importance of careers for women as security against uncertain times is obvious. In a related statistic, there is pressure for a financially stable household to be a two-income family. Who pays for childcare and related overhead for children while both parents work? Young families are forced to be practical and wait for more secure times before having a family. Yet, in mariner’s mind, his mother had no financial security but was not influenced to wait for better times; he wonders what is different today?

Another direct influence is pharmaceutical advances in birth control, something that was not available to his mother. Even with the advantage of birth control, why has the shift been so absolute? The statistics suggest that birth control made it easier to pursue a general conclusion to have children later.

Is the shift because Homo sapiens has become a four generation creature? Does this extra generation, largely not financially self-sufficient, add to the intuitive burden of their children?

Is this shift because Homo sapiens no longer has direct habitat-dependent requirements that lend themselves to tribal (extended family) society?

Is it because farming economy no longer is a slow, multi-generational experience that launches the process of gross domestic product?

Is it because modern technology has expanded the awareness of young people to a larger, more complex world?

How is this delay in building families related to falling populations in every industrialized nation? Is industrialized life too rapid and short-funded to allow for a society based on family-centric value?

From a broader perspective, do the planet’s rapidly shrinking resources cause an unconscious awareness that there isn’t enough to go around anymore?

Give this subject some thought. It’s certainly better than the general angst provided by cable news.

Ancient Mariner

If you’re past 50, pay attention

As regular readers know, mariner has been an advocate of maintaining strength in the quadriceps, the leg muscles that lift us every day. The primary enemy is the chair. One must, must, must, must do a few reps of squats every day to maintain a confident balance and dexterity with their limbs. The exercise also extends a lifestyle that is physically competent if even to getting in and out of a car.

See the link for an example.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKhd9MXTUzY

Just as important, if not more so, is to walk at least a mile every day. The older the reader is, the more important this exercise is. Mariner often has referenced a part of the brain that doesn’t wake up until the body is in a continued pace. One must walk at one’s best sustainable gait. The brain exercises all the critical components including lungs, heart, circulation and caloric consumption. Drink some water before the reader leaves for the walk.

Ancient Mariner

 

Happy Easter

Even if the weather isn’t cooperating, Spring is leaping forward. Mariner’s seed trays are full of little plants eager to be put in the garden. Just today he received red onion plants; they must go directly into the garden bed. Also just today, the weather was mild enough for him to prepare the garden bed for those onions. Mariner is grossly out of shape.

Mariner truly can’t handle his entire garden anymore. Each year he makes a deal with Mother Nature to take care of an increasing part of the garden he can’t manage. He has mentioned in past posts about his partnership with moles to control Japanese Beetles. That worked out well.

He discovered a fine looking weed (perhaps a Speedwell variety) that covers the ground as completely as grass and has a tiny white flower. Mariner plans to use it in some beds and places where grass just doesn’t want to grow – and the ground cover doesn’t need to be mowed!

Given the advantage of living in retirement and thereby protected from chimpanzian aggression to survive, mariner’s need to compete with nature has subsided. Mother Nature has been running the evolution show for 3.2 billion years since the first microbial sludge pumped oxygen into a methane atmosphere. If one can pause for a moment while suppressing the anxieties of modern human life, one realizes that Mother Nature is the real, educated, experienced boss of the biosphere AND humans – who are a troublesome creation to be sure.

While the human version of a natural biosphere involves everything from lawn Nazis to massive open pit mining complete with poisonous waste, in fact Mother Nature knows what really works in the long run, human evolution notwithstanding.

So mariner lets Mother Nature manage what he cannot manage. It actually is entertaining to watch how she meters out the advantages and disadvantages to all living things as they take their place in the biosphere and in mariner’s yard. True, the yard is no French castle garden, but such presentation is not of value to Mother Nature.

One annoying element that is out of control (from mariner’s point of view) is rabbits. They are highly destructive to vegetables and flowers alike. Humans are to blame because they decided to live in large, crowded towns where rabbit predators choose not to go. Subject to the sins of his own kind, mariner must play the role of rabbit predator.

The world of life is fascinating when human judgments are set aside. Take a long moment to visit a naturalized park to see what reality really looks like.

Ancient Mariner

It is about the times

Mariner’s wife has a desktop Zen calendar. Most of the time mariner struggles to grasp the point of the quote but today it couldn’t be clearer or more apropos to these times:

“The dignity of man lies in his ability to face reality in all its meaninglessness.”

We must find our dignity within ourselves – in the world today the reader won’t find it anywhere else. There is no news outlet broadcasting good times. Even marginal advances in humanism and technology are fraught with negatives and controversy. There is the Putin war, the totalitarian legislatures, the republican autocracy, the uncontrolled metaverse, the age of misinformation, global warming, pandemics, housing shortages, inflation, skyrocketing medical expense, China, North Korea, societal disintegration, the age of mass murders, the destructive influence of venture capital, uncontrolled private equity, growing plutocracy, Christian-based Trumpism, abusive tax structures that protect the wealthy, ignorance about the disappearing biosphere, disrespecting the very immigrants who will bolster the national population and its GDP.

Okay, mariner will stop. Oddly, it seemed almost like good news when the news outlets broadcast the passing of Madeline Albright; it wasn’t, of course, but it seemed better because it carried no angst. Bless her; she helped run a more civil nation in a different time.

Within ourselves we must find stability, sameness, a reason we exist. We must use behaviors that show responsibility for others, by doing what we can to help victims of our age.

We must separate our emotions from our thinking. Pure, educated thinking is in short supply today. We must act with vision and wisdom.

As the Zen quote implies, we must search for a world with meaning.

Ancient Mariner

 

Gumption Again

Ambition: An ardent desire for rank, fame or power; a desire to achieve a particular end.

Gumption: Having a sense of enterprise, initiative; colloquially, common sense.

Virtually all mariner’s friends and most relatives are, graciously said, elders. Mariner has no friends in public school, no friends in college, no friends achieving their life’s ambitions, no close friends who are Zs, millennials or Xs.

Although still pretending to have youthful ambition, all his elected government leaders are in their 70s, 80s and (shudder) 90s. But this post is not about them. It is about all elders in general.

Mariner has selected the word gumption not only to represent its generic definition but to represent a generational definition specific to elders. It is the emerging lack of gumption as one ages that exacerbates the reduction of mental function, physical capacity and usefulness. Failing gumption has four causes: evolution, society, mentality and physicality. Each is discussed below.

EVOLUTION

Recognizing all the medical advances humans have discovered (except the invention just recently of CRISPR), we have lived by the rules of one million years of evolution. Until just 11,000 years ago, homo species lived within their environment, did not have overly expensive medical care, did not have transportation beyond their own feet, and were incapable of abusing economic philosophy. If we look at our recent predecessors like Erectus and Neanderthal, it was unusual to live to be forty. Our bodies are designed to be finished when several body chemicals and cells cease to reproduce.

Longer lifespans, regardless of how beneficial the medical industry is today, are unnatural. We are warned by our bodies that something is amiss when we experience ‘midlife crisis’, menopause and mental shifts involving ambition – starting in our forties!

It is common for folks in their forties to ponder a second, more interesting career (AKA less ambition, more self rewarding). Gumption wants to take a break, too. There should be no guilt at this point; the body simply has said, “Are you still around?”  From this point forward, however, managing gumption becomes critically important.

SOCIETY

Society is a deep psychological phenomenon that evolved as part of the survival kit of herd living. Staying close to the herd reduced the odds of being captured by predators. Society is the herd pattern that evolves during our growing years – the things we learn subconsciously from Mom and Dad, the leaders of the tribe and personal experiences in the context of our daily environment. Interestingly, sociologists and historians have discovered that today a human herd pattern roughly has a sixty-year cycle, about the same as the life span of ambition, including another fifteen years for transition to the next generation.

Similar to the evolution constraint, our societal lifespan has an ending as well, perhaps somewhere between forty and sixty-five. Hmm, doesn’t retirement begin today at sixty-five? (Why are politicians exempted? sorry, political comment).

What this generational phenomenon has to do with gumption is that what we learned from Mom and Dad, our peers and life experiences has become largely irrelevant to the new herd pattern so we do not feel the urgency to ambitiously pursue what to elders seems less important. Unconsciously, we let our gumption slide, too. A simple example for men is not feeling the need to shave and dress neatly every day (adjusted for compulsive personalities). Still, we obey our herd pattern by visiting others in our generation. Sadly, often what is missing is a plan to create a personal ambition commensurate with our interests that will at least force us to act as if we were still the dominant generation. This requires gumption; gumption will delay other aging factors in this list.

MENTALITY

Overall, there isn’t much we can do about degradation of the mind. It, too, is subject to evolution. Elders know intimately about forgetfulness, absentmindedness, struggling with bills and arithmetic, lip-slurring and general memory loss. Still, to one degree or another, having gumption frequently can delay the social ramifications of brain dysfunction.

Gumption to force one’s focus on personal ambition will slow the brain’s demise. An example is a serious desire to sustain a hobby at quality levels, doing all the chores and activity required for that ambition, along with continued engagement with the generational herd will sustain rationality if even a little bit for a few years – or for an extended life cycle. Many elders adopt the well being of other elders as an ambition.

Of course, the older we are, the more inevitable our evolutionary commitment will prevail but having the gumption to stay connected to an ambition makes the path more enjoyable.

PHYSICALITY

Nowhere is the effect of aging more visible than in the physical condition of the body. Contrarily, it is the physical condition that can be altered and improved most by gumption. The most celebrated effort to use gumption for physical improvement is the annual New Year’s Eve resolution. If nothing else, the failure rate demonstrates the hard core commitment gumption requires. One can imagine a primitive era 35 year-old Homo habilis saying, “Must we hike back four miles to our camp? Why can’t we just camp here tonight and go back in the morning.”

Unlike any other enterprise, physical condition requires had-to-start-will-never-end ambition. It is extremely difficult to sustain today because of automobiles, hover boards, delivery services, food sellers and the insidious chair. Simply sitting in a full squat while eating will do wonders for balance.

An evolutionary function we inherited from the African Veldt days is a part of the brain that takes over body functions whenever we are running or walking for a sustained time at a sustained rate. This function controls and appropriately exercises all the circulatory, skeletal and muscular functions as well as lungs and heart. If there were one exercise that elders must do under any circumstance, it is sustained daily walking at an aggressive pace – and squatting or sitting on the floor without using chairs. If you must use chairs, use only your legs and do not let the arms help. How many elders can’t get up off the floor? If you did it many times a day, it would be easy. Damned chairs!

However, the intent of this post was not to promote physical therapy per se but to urge elders to take control of gumption. Make yourself walk back to camp tonight.

Ancient mariner

 

The US psyche

Mariner follows cartoons from many sources and recommends the same for readers. Cartoons release subconscious constipation and act like an aspirin against the pain of daily events. Wiley of Non Sequitur is his champion. The reader can get a year’s worth on their next desktop calendar.

Below are two excellent examples:

 

Unfinished Business

֎ Speculations about the future of Christianity drew interest. If the Trinity disappears, Armageddon will ensue. Mariner is not in a position to reconcile such a difficult question so he will throw some logs on the fire.

Log 1 – In the local newspaper today was an article about a Roman Catholic priest here in the US. He was in deep trouble because many parishioners had to re-baptize their babies because the priest said, “We baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.” Turns out the Vatican said this is improper because it is the spirit of Jesus only who baptizes; the priest should have said ‘I’. Calculate the amount of grace, dare mariner say God’s grace, that was demonstrated in the strict interpretation. Define aquarium. Define spiritual.

Log 2 – Just in his small town mariner counted five people who never go to church but are known for their good works and their commitment to help others. One of these people is older than mariner and when there is a snowstorm will get out his tractor and clear 19 driveways in town, mostly those who cannot do it themselves. Can the two Great Commandments be defined in other belief systems that do not have a spiritual deity?

Log 3 – There is a hairdresser who takes one workday each week to work in retirement homes. Does this woman go to church? Define Holy Spirit.

– – – –

On to other matters:

More companies are using AI-led video interviews to assess job candidates before a human recruiter even meets them. Some automated programs evaluate not just on answers to questions, but sometimes on facial expressions, intonation and word choice.

Remember Nadine?

 

Here in Iowa mariner had another snowstorm yesterday. The ground is covered in snow and ice; bitter breezes prevail; many winter chores remain undone. Nevertheless, four weeks from now the early vegetables like lettuce can be planted; is the asparagus bed ready? Clean the greenhouse and pots; repair garden tools. Get ready, gardeners.

Ancient Mariner

 

2000 Century Trends

Below are random thoughts collected from mariner’s alter egos about trends in society and history that are too large to be noticed daily and so slow in impact that, today at least, they don’t matter.

֎ Migration from the coasts.  Axios, an online news source, reports that a trend is well underway which involves a significant number of people relocating from the coasts and current centers of commerce to twenty heartland states. Three major causes are the ability to work from home, the internet enables large corporations to relocate for tax purposes and an awareness of the impact of global warming on the coasts – ocean levels are expected to rise one foot by 2050. Map below:

Mariner mentions this trend because it is a shift in winds by the nation’s cultural ideology about what it means to be successful. Since the 1960s one was considered upwardly mobile and successful if they were able to escape the local scene and become part of the world of big-time success, typically large corporations, universities and the world of the Fortune 500. One could ask whether today’s working class (including the trumpers) will ever again be the center of the nation’s work ethic, will ever again bask in the glory days of Rosie the Riveter and the political influence of the AFL/CIO. In the future one wonders where the collective identity of a U.S. citizen will emerge – given the isolating characteristics of working from home and the extensive automation of manufacturing. In the future what cultural characteristic will define a successful individual?

֎ The disappearance of Christianity. Among the major religions of the world, Christianity is the most spiritual. To be a Christian requires an eagerness to put aside one’s own sense of accomplishment and replace it with enabling success in others. The theological basis is a spiritual relationship – a partnership – with God, Jesus and the human Christian; scripturally called the Trinity. In 2014 Paul Harvey, a conservative talk show host on radio, said “Too many Christians are no longer fishers of men, but the keepers of the aquarium.” – clearly a recognition of an evaporating spiritual element in Christianity.

For many decades religious thinkers have pondered what will replace Christianity. Will it be atheism? Will it be humanism? Will it be naturalism? Will it be, in a computer-driven society, determinism? Will a new age of theocracy emerge? Each of these ideologies has a similar ethical structure, essentially endorsing a grand order from which morality can be deduced but not necessarily from an anthropomorphic deity driven by spirituality. Like the national identity of success, Christianity is a deeply rooted characterization of most U.S. citizens. What will replace the spirituality provided by Christianity? Will church buildings go the way of public telephone booths? What unchanging, overarching principle will guide humanity in the simulated world of artificial intelligence?

֎ Economic theory. Since the beginning, Homo sapiens’ habitat has been one, most of the time, that has allowed a constant increase in the number of humans in the world. There was always another natural resource to leverage, always a new way to profit as a species, always a new intellectual device to increase production beyond human capability.

Along with a period of unusually long and stable planetary weather, the environment allowed three primary economic theories to work: capitalism, socialism and communism. Granted, there are unending political ways to manage these theories from dictatorships to democracies but only these three economic theories can leverage the natural resources in a manner that is sustainable. The number of humans has long surpassed survivability based on hunting/gathering and family labor.

Today the human population has grown past 7 billion on its way to what many scientists from different disciplines believe, given natural resources, is a maximum capacity of 11 billion. Add to population issues the issue of global warming and a reduced need for labor in an automated world and one begins to wonder what food will be available? What income will be available? How will banking and supply economics work as resources diminish on a person-to-person basis? What is the future of capitalism when there is no longer an opportunity to increase profit? Will underfed socialism lead to an era of war and domination?

Humans may not be wiped out by a meteor like the dinosaurs were, but humans may experience a rapid transition as the combination of profiteering, extreme weather and resource depletion come together to form a new age.

Ancient Mariner

 

Take me out to the ballgame

It’s those damned smartphones again! It seems no one has time to watch a full sporting event. Full length television of football, baseball, soccer, tennis and other major events is disappearing. Instead, viewers check out Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Snapchat. Even the Super Bowl is at risk.

It may be hard to reconstruct for the busy young streamers but there was a time when the event, the getting together with family and friends, the actual driving, parking, ticket purchase, hot dogs and time spent cheering, booing and doing the wave was as important as the game – the entire, three-hour game! When the game was away, television was a true blessing; folks still gathered in homes, pubs and sports restaurants to watch the entire game.

This is a simple and clear example of the deep human price our culture is paying as it moves to an age born in the computer cloud.

Other acts of sports participation have disappeared. For example, most neighborhoods participated in adult softball leagues. The extracurricular activities were just as important as the games themselves. Sports used to be one of the major socialization events that mixed people together to form common ground, which fostered togetherness and acceptance of one another. Despite the rivalry and the boisterousness, common courtesy was practiced.

Time was, every neighborhood had a card club for poker, bridge and mah-jongg. The point is this: It is obvious today that serious activity in politics, business ethics, and international relations all are a bit stiff and awkward. It is difficult to behave within a sociable base of communication. Homo sapiens is a herd creature. Without a practiced herd behavior, we may as well be possums – just as long as we have our surreal smartphone.

Ancient Mariner

Memory

Memory is a strange phenomenon. The subconscious wreaks havoc with our memories if only to justify our idiosyncrasies. We can remember a brief instant deep in our past for no reason except that, for some reason, the brain bookmarked it. Age begins to wear on memories; if it hasn’t been important for a while, the brain tosses it out. At the end the brain trashes functional memory but keeps fantasized and mindless habits.

An old codger, mariner’s brain has started tossing things; mostly names of people and nouns. It has come to the point that mariner often fails in the telling of a joke because the brain doesn’t share the key word in the punchline. Short memory is a turkey shoot. Mariner can know the word he wants to use and three seconds later it no longer exists – only to return ten minutes later.

But what is lost in the tossing is huge chunks of our lives. Mariner’s wife will say “Do you remember when we visited so-and-so in Nashville and had to take a train because the highways were closed?” To which mariner replies, “We’ve never been to Nashville. Who is so-and-so?” Who among us watches television and sees dozens of faces vaguely recognized but why and when are they familiar has been tossed?

Mariner raises this issue because of a phenomenon most have experienced. Like most of us, mariner has a collection of songs from his youthful days. A few years ago mariner compiled his favorites into a list called simply, GOAT. There are over ninety songs from every venue, era, concert, pop, classic, jitterbug, Broadway and every type of troubadour. Mariner plays GOAT every once in a while when he is preoccupied with office work or other quiet activities.

HE SINGS ALONG KNOWING EVERY WORD OF EVERY SONG, EVERY CHORD SHIFT, EVERY SYNCOPATION, EVERY STYLE AND EVERY VOICE. HE HAS ALL THE IMAGES OF THE ENTERTAINERS SINGING THE SONG.

Mariner is an idiot savant.

Ancient Mariner