Thursday, April 2, 2020

novel haiku: verse 19


Nature's concoction
protein-coated RNA
patient pathogen

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

This Year, Humanity Is Nature's April Fool

A ditch filled with endangered pangolins (humans soon to follow...no laugh)

Humans got some major payback this year. We once again played with viral fire and now we are getting severely burned. Anyone who has read Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel understands that animal husbandry and wildlife hunting are the breeding grounds for plague.  Covid-19 like so many other diseases occur because of excessive human interaction with animals.

News update: our species is a product of evolution by natural selection; the lies a dozen religious origin myths tell are magical, fictitious thinking pure and simple. No gods or collective universe energy will be coming to our rescue in this crisis; it's up to us. Unlike our animal cousins we have the scientific tools to understand and to protect ourselves better from pathological plagues like the novel corona virus. 

In general, non-human animals are biologically similar enough to humans to permit mutated pathogens to occasionally jump the species barrier. These zoonotic diseases are natural mutations exacerbated by human practices. Sure, we have accumulated scientific wisdom to battle against these "acts" of Nature, but we fools in we do so little in the way of prevention.  

How can we significantly reduce zoonotic occurrences like H1N1 (swine flu) H5N1 (avian flu), and SARS (bat incubated pathogen tbd), and Covid-19 (pangolin incubated virus tbd)? The well-reasoned, straight-forward answer is we can stop imprisoning and harvesting as many animals as possible and shift faster toward using plant agriculture as a substitute for for all the unnecessary animal products our culture has blindly kept as archaic ("because we like them") carnist traditions. 

Each of us, our communities and civilization as a whole can choose a better path. Yes, we can fight zoonotic diseases with medical technology once there's an outbreak, but an ounce of prevention in this case is worth a mega-metric tons of cure!  A solid preventative consideration to start us down that road is choosing to transition society toward being vegan aligned. At its heart compassion and reason make veganism a foundational ethic of goodness for everyone. Indeed, whole plant food diets can also be healthier, but when it comes down to it eliminating animal husbandry and hunting would be a boon for the health of our planet and our species. 

Individually we can help in this way to avoid the next zoonotic pandemic, but we also need inspired leaders that encourage a healthy global ethic.  If we don't, Nature will only more frequently throw catastrophe pie in our collective faces.


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

death, taxes and joie de vivre



by decree, a bouquet of dark humor unto thee
as western consumerists doth writhe in macabre danse
Nature serves up a warm slice of Strüdel-19
dripping with jazzy downward note-spirals a la NASDAQ

the measure of a human; viva la rÉvolution
L'appetito exclaims It's Alive! sans consideration
Blitzen! tribal myths of fleshy resurrection 
the emperor and the pope hook up for holy digestation

each of us plays our part in the H. s. sapiens show
genetically encoded for carpe diem and family first
wielding compassion like a switch-blade
and reason like a cerebral plume con autoerotica
thinking better to act better...maybe next time?


Monday, March 30, 2020

Love in the Time of Covid-19



It might feel like a strange topic to bring up with a world pandemic underway, but cliche or not, love runs strong in times of need. 

There are many definitions for love but I primarily see love at its core and in action as when we put the well-being of others ahead of our own.

During this crisis, civilization will implement all kinds of imperfect medical, social and economic processes in the fight against Covid 19. If we keep love in mind as the motive for these efforts then our species can level up as a world presence.

Thus and therefore, each of us needs to reach inside, center ourselves, and reach out to our friends, family, community and world to give good energy to the compassionate and rational solutions that the CDC, WHO, and experts in general share. During this time, each of us in our own way can step up to support those we know, and even those we don't; the estranged, homeless, immigrant, and curmudgeonly. 

Yes, this emergency will come to an end eventually, and how we as individuals acted guided by our own inner love will say a lot about ourselves and the human race. Then, after the grief wanes, as we evaluate our losses and implement better science and systems with loving care, we can look back and laugh at this crisis as "the 'one' where stores ran short on toilet paper."

Monday, March 23, 2020

Thursday, March 19, 2020

A Call for Transcendance



Hear ye, hear ye, fellow human spirit!

It's become obvious, it is up to us as global stewards to transcend Nature with ethicality. For eons we've listened to priests and priestesses, to their gossipy wive tales of yore, to the phantom whispers of our own misguided conjectures. We've even labeled some of these directives as the infallible word of higher powers, though they've never shown up to lend a hand. 

Well, I say "no more!"

It very well may be okay for foxes to slink up on their prey in Nature, but our slaughter of sentient creatures is no longer necessity. We may have designed corporations as constructs to hyper-efficiently work the loopholes of "free markets" so that they may steal from labor and planet to generate excessive profits for shareholders. We each may have been sold the idea it's okay to cheat to win the game, alas our ethic can be reforged integrating evidence based feedback loops and heartfelt integrity. 

Together we can chant "forward!" 

The time has come for caveat emptor to meet internet fact checking in the court of the living. If we choose, we can compost the myths and the conspiracy theories. We can implement compassion and reason to achieve realistic dreams for each of us, our communities and our planet. If you dare, let's build a new civilization that pursues a rational ethic, a reasonable lifestyle, and relationships worth their weight in Unobtainium.

Indeed, let's dream the unthinkable, to be the best we can be, and shout within ourselves "if not today, then when!" 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Silence


I'm still processing a week-long silent meditation retreat I just attended this month. The experience didn't enforce stringent isolation nor did it establish a blissful zone of peace for me. For the dozen of us present it did encourage speaking only when absolutely necessary or for brief questions during meditation talks. Eye contact was discouraged or any real interaction. The primary task at hand was to focus on presence of mind through breath work and during mindful walking throughout each day.

Having meditated off and on in the past, I had anticipated that a week of silent attention might provide a breakthrough exploration of what exactly consciousness is. In execution, the "being present" activities were intriguing and vivid at times, though toward the end of the week I developed a mild headache from the intense persistence of attentiveness. In the final days I ended up journaling and contemplating a variety of ideas rather than sticking to the meditative regimen. The many solo nature walks I made were joyful, taking on the guise of childlike adventure.  (There was also a "secular buddhist" component to the experience, but I'll reflect on that aspect another time.)

In the end, I still like the idea of choosing to immerse in short silent periods to stay in touch with the real world, a world of sensation that often gets set aside in favor of the busyness of everyday life. And though ones own mind may have mysteries to reveal in its depths, I have become a bit cautious of trying to deconstruct what millions of years of precarious evolution have assembled.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Let's Do the Covid-19 Shuffle!



So much daunting, depressing energy flowing in the world at the moment. Indeed, there is a lot our weakened, but still strong institutions (with our help) need to accomplish, and we all will step up to get it done. Still, to do this effectively we need to refresh our psyches, and purge the pooled, bad energy, so why not...

"... do the Covid-19 Shuffle!"

The rhythm of our personal Covid-19 Shuffle wants us to shake some mental moves to exercise our minds healthily. Take a second to consider; each of us knows where we can find joyful pockets of energy in our lives, but here are some melodious suggestions to remind ourselves in these dim-lit dance club times.

"Give your WFH body joy Macarena!"

Being present as an individual is key, and by that I mean allowing ones senses to be flooded with the experience of the "now." This might mean taking a focused walk and paying attention to all the sights, sounds and smells, even the sensation of each footstep. Drink in the sensory experience and let memories, thoughts and worries float by; sure, acknowledge those bits of driftwood briefly to consider and act on more effectively later, but for the moment do you best to refocus on the sensations at hand.

"Twenty-second handwash, Gangham Style!"

Basically, these neural gyrations make for a meditative tango. Traditional meditation would have you focus on the repetition of your breath because it can be done anywhere you are, but local scenery, funky music, jigsaw puzzles, even house projects can be your meditative anchor. Importantly, you choose the activity not to "stay busy," NO, but instead to engage in living in the amazing moment that we have at hand being alive. Escaping with a sitcom, a novel, or a video game can work too, sure, just be flexible with options depending where you are. At the office, working from home, running errands, no matter, find a way to set aside a few minutes or thirty if you can to recharge with your very own personalized, mindful dance moves!

"Everybody, engage! Do the neurologic twist!"

If you choose to dismiss my dancible moment suggestion with a "yeah right," well then at least follow your remark with a self induced chuckle! That single exhale of built up dark energy might give you some momentum to two-step with rhythm a little closer to the end of this crisis.

"Face, you can't touch this!"


Monday, March 16, 2020

haiku vaccination


take flight in your breath
winged mindfulness gliding
over water blue



Saturday, March 7, 2020

Take a Break: Sensate



Today I send out the simple encouragement to regularly allow yourself to take a mindful break. Consider taking a minute or many to simply experience the present wherever you are. When we focus on our senses, without undue abstraction in the Now, this is being.

(Me, I'm taking a break from writing on Goodness First for a week to immerse myself in a silent meditation retreat.  Here are a few resources where you can research mindfulness meditation further.)

Psychology Today (article on mindfulness)

Mind Illuminated (meditation guidebook)

Waking Up (app with talks and meditation resources by Sam Harris)


Friday, March 6, 2020

States of Change: Chapter 24: Show Me (Missouri)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged unique societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.



No one knows exactly who first called it The Slicer. Like so many cultural traditions spontaneous group-think sometimes just happens. In fact, the roots of Missouri's regulation of citizen life-span began as a trans-humanist meditation practice. To an outsider Shelving might seem like a techno-cult ritual right out of a Gibson novel.  Dusty references to suicide booths and soylent green aside, the current statisticians and influencers hail Compromise 2.0 as our State's economic and creative salvation.

Even if The Slicer has no known namer, it's obvious why the State's euthanasia system earned the deli inspired title. No need for spinning stainless steel blades though, instead high energy particle beams perform the bodily dissection. Over the space of sixty seconds every synapse state is scanned, indexed and uploaded to the State Library's Citizen Archive. Nervous system death is an intentional after effect. Such is the price of being shelved eternal for the good of the people.

As one of the last Missourians who lived under Oosa, my recollection of that disunited, divisive era is mostly reconstructed pseudo-memories.  Youthful curiosity indexing my parents media archives revealed age old power games: corporate constructs bent on libertarian pyramid schemes, wealth collected from youthful labor and pooled at the feet of the aged, and of course the wasteful expenditures battling senescence, ever pretending that physical immortality was just around the corner.

Nowadays, a healthy life where we're not obsessed with longevity is the rule.. Most Missourians willingly accept the trade-off UBI in exchange for a known finite lifespan. Personally, I've always felt fifty-five years offered plenty of time to live. The consolation that ones memories will be made available to other citizens is bonus. And I sure don't worry about reanimation conspiracy theories; Missouri law is clear, each Shelved citizen shall be patterned with deliberate fragmentation sufficient that no resuscitation as a digital construct could occur. The Missouri Library of Citizens was designed with an architecture for public reference, never for consciousness selfies.

The departure lounge here is comfortable enough as I wait for my number to ping. I tune down my VisAR and observe a few of my peers playing chess; several engage in last minute conjecture of what an afterlife might hold. I'm not religious enough to entertain such foolishness. Personally, I've spent my last hours watching the century-old romcom Dead Again. Maybe I selected the title for a touch of irony, but mostly I want to face The Slicer's final cut of impermanence with a grin on my face.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

My Opinion on "The Right To Your Opinion"

*depiction is a work of satirical fiction


Too often I hear "everyone has the right to their opinion" exclaimed with vehemence. Yes, in America we celebrate the right to free speech, but it has always been tempered with the understanding that spreading dangerous lies (i.e. yelling "terrorist!" in a theater) was condemned.

To that end, I suggest we spread the meme "everyone has a responsibility to spread well-informed opinion." If we made this our species' motto it would go a long way to protecting the gullible flat-earther who launches himself in a rocket to disprove an obvious lie. It would also significantly protect society against contagion when a populist idealogue lies on national television that "the Corona virus is a hoax!" In general, it would encourage rational, positive dialogue on all the issues in between.

Today, humans have the ability and opportunity to share the best ideas across the world, and it's in our best interest for the whole planet to be sure the best science, reasoned logic, and mindful compassion are engaged in that ongoing process.

Think better to act better.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Ambition, Monster or Magic?



Human living in the modern world seems too often driven by an ethic of economic prosperity of individual and organization.  Certainly, the vast network of infrastructure we call civilization has permitted human beings to become prolific in numbers, travel extensively, create amazing things, and in general participate in a tremendous variety of experiences.  But will the planetary balance survive this economic matrix of miracles and mayhem?

Consider whether perhaps the human race has become a multi-billion strong force far to the right on the sociopathic spectrum. Each individual, community, nation, and the whole of civilization by and large focused on pursuing a path of outcomes that benefits the concerns of those human-based groups. In a fashion, this is the fault of evolution, itself an uncaring process that naturally reinforces the propagation of successful systems.

On the surface, it seems quite natural for humanity to look out for itself, its sub-groups and its individuals. The transcendent vision of the human mind can potentially see beyond its own selfishness, perhaps, in part due to tribal traits acquired by that said same evolutionary process. Because we can have the capacity for empathy and compassion for humans, in principle we can apply those perceptions toward other species, whether they be pets, wildlife or wildflowers. In fact, we can even apply this perception to constructs such as global climate, biodiversity, and prospective AI robots, not to mention the fictional characters and creatures in our favorite Netflix series.

The question to ask, is are the goals we are pursuing in our lives leading to positive, long-term, overarching outcomes? In great degree, much of society is driven in totality by achieving things for short-term (i.e. our lifetime) human gain, to create and enjoy a family, higher production rates, higher income levels, higher attainment of prestige and optimizing of our relationships.

No we may not be able to leave those cultural expectations behind entirely, but perhaps we can swerve dimensionally to avoid planetary implosion. Many will look to higher powers to take care of things, rather than use scientific skepticism to plan a better path for all the world ahead. The solution to that may be very simply to slow the fuck down. Too many humans is the stampede of elephants in the room nobody wants to talk about. Multiply that population mayhem by the increasing consumption per capita and you get a global catastrophic event.

Sure the Earth itself doesn't care whether we turn it into a sterile, blacktop sphere in the next hundred years or if the Sun sterilizes it in another four billion. Nevertheless, as the most powerful beings present and accounted for, humans have to do the caring for the rest of the planet. Only with our mindful ambition can a complex balance can continue for a joyful, long time beyond our own lives.



Tuesday, March 3, 2020

midday moment


one black snake; anoles
three puppies and three housecats
an h. sapien

Monday, March 2, 2020

Burying Ares in Gaia Once and For All


Were I to call for an end to violence in society, I would have endless support. However, were I to suggest ending all military infrastructure, I would face dark stares and unpatriotic insults. As I see it, America, and to a great extent, the rest of the world has drank the Kool-Aid in regards to worshiping outdated military institutions, past deadly conflicts and violence as a solution to world issues in general.

Sure, in the past expansionist factions threatened the free world and subsequently were stopped by mobilizing military alliances. But the thing we truly celebrate is the relative peace after those horrible stretches of violence. Might we not consider the alternative path, where the world fully demilitarizes and no country is permitted to build offensive military infrastructure in the first place?

Trillions of dollars are spent annually worldwide to build weaponry that is meant to kill. This is money that could be spent on public education, civilization infrastructure, and planetary stewardship. Absolutely, there would be a tough transition to make, and the profiteering industrial war complex would fight insidiously every step of the way.

The time has come to work together for an alliance of countries to take the lead and plan for the elimination of military and weaponized police budgets to face the enormous challenges the world has. Sure there are other battles will remain in economic and virtual battlescapes, but with the long term elimination of all lethal machines civilization just might focus on nurturing thoughtful minds and a healthy world environment.

I admit this is a radical dream, alas without dreams we may as well already be dead.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Spoke The Inchworm



As a thought experiment today, I sought to convey the core essence of a variety of groups through turns on the old adage, "Give 'em an inch and they'll take a yard."

In doing so, I challenged myself to make an honest yet revealing representation, so I suspect it will fall a touch short of steel-manning each group's self-image.  Still I hope the creations exhibit a level of pithiness, and a sense of humor along the three foot path.

Tailors: "Give 'em an inch, and they'll mend your torn yard."

Scientists: "Give 'em an inch and they'll provide sufficient evidence before they request a yard."

Priests: "Give 'em an inch and they'll pull a yard out of their apse."

Bankers: "Give 'em an inch and they'll charge you a yard to loan the inch they got for free."

Poets: "Give 'em an inch and they'll claim yard rhymes with pinch."

Engineer: "Give 'em an inch and they'll meter out the rest to three decimal places."

Landscapers: "Give 'em a yard and they'll mow it inch by inch."

Politicians: "Give 'em an inch and they'll redefine it as a yard to advantage their supporters."

Mathematicians: "Give 'em an inch and they'll prove it's 1/36th of a yard."

Vegans: "Give 'em an inch and they will contemplate if its sentience and environmental impact qualifies it to have the rights of a yard."

Trekkies: "Give 'em an inch and they'll beam up Jean Luc Picard."

Friends: "Give 'em an inch, and they'll smile a yard wide."

Minimalists: "Give 'em a yard and they'll take an inch."

Writers: "Give us an inch and we'll weave you a tapestrial yarn."

Have a good one? Share it in the comments! 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Forces at Play


Gravity tugs relentless
galaxies bow before Him
patient assembler of worlds
raging against mountain and molecules
yet life stands up to the challenge
revolts against His heavy edict

Evolution, a planetary empress
She selects, naturally
tickling genes, toppling dinosaurs 
turning apes into tribal believers of woo
breeder, breeder, indifferent excreter
Her toxins make new gardens grow

Entropy and Time creep in the wings
jesters laughing at complexity
ready to unleash the evil of undoing
ultimate savages, They shall devour
each and every quark 
countless eons later, They laugh last

Minds sail such seas of impermanence
building walls to outlast memory of self
Each dances with joyful futility
delusions suffered, sometimes with grace
ever in denial, chasing each breath
toward adventures found, and always lost


Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Perfection is the Enemy of Goodness



I find myself often evaluating my behaviors and those of my species' looking for someway to ratchet up the ethical processes of the individual and world. The momentum of current culture is ferocious. Holding on to ancient traditions and ideas is very difficult to erode even when their foundations are inane and their outcomes heinous.

Still, knowing there is no such thing as perfection is important to staying sane in ones daily life. And to be sure being a positive activist can be exceptionally draining. Whether it's as a vegan unintentionally smashing insects with my car, or as an atheist observing winter holidays alongside Christian family members. Giving in a little permits one to live life in an imperfect world and among those we have differences with.

A sense of humor and a joyful heart go a long way to helping to navigate in the real world, especially if one has an activist mindset. Many cite "live and let live" as a guiding principle; however, what goodness do we rob from life if we are unable to peacefully share ideas and persuasively influence others with compassionate and well-reasoned intentions?

And yet the "live and let live" philosophy reigns supreme in American pseudo-libertarian culture, even when the ones living kills animals unnecessarily, pollutes the atmosphere excessively and thieves from resources as if they were unlimited.

It can be enough to wear us down. At some point in ones life we may very well decide to hole up and hide from the world. Even "do no harm" pledges are not realistically attainable, so a compassionate person who falls short in living up to their own ideals can develop self-apathy.

Instead of seeking perfection, we should set aside time to recharge. Dance, laugh, read for pleasure, watch a comedy, play a video game, explore a nature trail, create something beautiful....regularly swim in the chaotic experience of imperfection!


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Haiku du Jour


between Earth and sky
brown headed nuthatches fly
humans watch them die

Monday, February 24, 2020

Walkaway: A Glimpse of a Near-fetched Future


The novel Walkaway by Cory Doctorow presents a post-scarcity, peer-cooperative, creative-leap, transhumanist near future. Its plotlines entangle the privileged super-wealthy with the oppressed creative worker base. If found the story less compelling than the ideas it presents, so here's a no spoiler analysis of those points.

Post-scarcity economics and distributed peer culture: true creative innovation can lead to a plenitude of natural resource harvesting and efficient development for humanity. On the surface, a grassroots rise which takes control back from the corporate warlords feels quite positive, however, we must be wary that the base desire to grow for the sake of growth and material wealth does not remain our prime directive. What might complement post-scarcity economics better is an encouragement of true minimalism, human population reduction and whole planet biodiversity conservation.

Scientism and wishful thinking: as much as I am a fan of critical thinking, basic research and progressive policy, we must be wary of the unspoken "technology can fix everything" so let's rush forward with every discovery and innovation. Sure we will likely always have growing pains with new technology like social media platforms and the questionable information revolution its unleashed. Nevertheless, expanding consumerism,  worsening climate change, and resource shortages simply may not ever be sufficiently addressed by scientific innovation. The technological glass ceiling may be high, but the cost of unstable natural and societal environments may suffer. Spending trillions on human Mars exploration may have a modest payoff or it may turn into an interplanetary sinkhole. 

Virtual immortality and high artificial intelligence: the holy grail of current information research is attainment of systems which can out think humans and their current synthesizing constructs (scientific method, creativity, political power, etc.). These AI systems may become the war-machines which make nations and corporations beyond competitive to the point where our leadership will no longer be human. Of course, if our AI capability rises, so does the potential of human mind simulation itself, though it's uncertain at best if existence within transistor space will "feel" equivalent to neuron space. At some level no one wants to die, but if we actually attain the ability to live for long periods of time in a virtual space, will our quality of life rise or will our desire for "eating all the Halloween candy," once fulfilled make us sick psychologically.

These are my thoughts on a novel I recommend, less because of the plot, and more for the reflection its ideas stirred in me.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Small Talk, Big Connections



Life and living are complex, to be sure. Still when connecting with others it helps to have conversational principles in place that produce good things for the relationship, not only for the good of each individual, but also for the greater community and the world as a whole.  Honest, positive exchanges of information benefit all.

Three principles I think work together to create positive conversation are compassion, reason and self-reflection. (and a fourth, sense of humor, may be very well be the mortar between those bricks)

Compassion cherishes the other person, their participation and their point of view as equal or even slightly more important than your own.

Reason brings to bear in a thoughtful manner the best data, logic and established science pertinent to the conversation.

Self-reflection engages humility, integrity, and an open mind during and after the conversation to consider and reconsider ones convictions.

And a sense of humor recognizes that no peaceful battle is ever settled in one day, let alone a single conversation. But laughter can remind us of the goodness of our connection even when other emotions and disagreement are in play.

As a real world example of how one might implement these conversational principles, let's consider the very real scenario when I interact with someone I know and care for who has a belief in a magical position, specifically, let's say, belief in an afterlife. I choose this topic because of the wide range of seriousness and silliness with which an afterlife is considered to this day.

Entering the conversation, compassion leads the way. By considering the person you'll be talking not only can you adjust your presentation to be most interesting to the other person, you also set yourself up to have your information received in a friendly fashion. I think one of the best ways to open a conversation is with a question, so that you demonstrate your interest in the other's thoughts.

What do you think of the idea of heaven?

Even if your friend is a believer you may very well be surprised at how skeptical their position is. As a person who wants to implement reason, this can be a great way to learn some fact or at least understand the exact position your conversational partner holds.

Okay so you believe there is paradise where everyone is happy and you are reunited with everyone in your life who has died, except for those who didn't believe in the Christian god?

By reflecting honestly what your friend has shared seeks confirmation that you understand their conviction. You might very well go through several iterations of fully understanding the basics of their stance. You may find opportunities to gently challenge their premises along the way.

Okay, so Christians judged by Jesus as worthy rise to heaven, but even if you're a non-christian or an atheist who lived your life with love and kindness you wouldn't get there?

Yes it can be trying at times to listen to a story that has little evidence behind it, but a good conversation takes the other's position seriously.  If you can't then you probably shouldn't have started the conversation. Real world persuasion involves patience and calm, honest sharing. Otherwise, the conversation can enter an adversarial dead end to no ones benefit. To this end, reflect on whether your statements might insult the other, instead of a acerbic comment consider sharing a friendly comment that underscores wanting to know the truth better.

I used to believe in an afterlife myself. The hope that we will be reunited with our dead loved ones is powerful, which makes heaven an interesting idea to contemplate.

At a certain point you may sense the discussion is only causing stress, and you'd rather not have it become an all or nothing debate. "Winning the argument" with a friend rarely happens, especially over the course of a single conversation. A better way to end a serious minded discussion is with a bit of humor to fertilize any seeds of compassion and reason that were planted.

Well, if there is a heaven, I hope they have Netflix!

To be sure, being human means we may never perfectly implement the principles of compassion, reason and self-reflection. Still if we make the attempt to ratchet up these principles in conversations with those we care about, we just may find ourselves one step closer to creating heaven on Earth.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Friendship Formation: A Pondering


Like overlapping ocean waves the world offers an endless variety of friendship. In childhood serendipity we stumble upon our first friends with instinctive fervor. What fun we sought playing tag, stick-ball and war, all games inherently requiring others willing to commit to improvised rules of the moment. Sharing secret knowledge, television story-lines, and the very beginnings of personal dreams comes naturally on the heels of play. Layer upon layer of trust we build into alliances with unsigned pacts that culture whispers down through the ages. 

Come adulthood, our passions, societal expectations, and a myriad of other quests take us along currents where all too often old friendships wither from atrophy, incompatible ideologies, or one-off scuffles. Of course, as adults if we are lucky and skilled, new friendships can be forged like ephemeral vessels that carry us ever forward.

The strongest friendships are those that resist entropy. In spite of time apart, colossal differences of opinion or an occasional emotional inferno, those grandest assembled friendships float resolute. And when the next wind of circumstance blows, the metaphorical galleon's sails rumble to life and the journey of that special friendship powers on toward an undiscovered horizon.

Ah, friendship.

Monday, February 17, 2020

on personal reflection and poetry

There are moments when poetry, helps one resolve inner tension.

Today two very nice missionaries asked me to consider their cult-like message, and rather than have a long conversation to help each other examine the possibilities, I kindly indicated how my life experience and personal research had put me on a more rational path. Polite or no, I regretted my comments later, feeling like I was a bit of a jerk and, in contrast, knowing they were off sewing seeds of misinformation. Perhaps a better outcome would have been had were I to have broken bread with these young people to allow time to share, rather than fend off a thoughtful exchange. Nevertheless, writing this short poem helped me reflect and heal my internal bruises of sentiment, somewhat.

Consider writing yourself poetry sometime if your insides ache.



a childhood spent swimming
in a magical pond 
'til frozen contemplation had me walking
walking its surface, along
pursuing knowledge and wisdom, their own reward
still ice skating with friends 
might be less absurd

Friday, February 14, 2020

States of Change: Chapter 23: Vacationland (Maine)


States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged their societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.





"The panel chair acknowledges the representative from King County for five minutes."

"Thank you Mr. Chairperson. I graciously ask the panel approve Bill LR 7420 for submission to state parliament requesting the change from Maine's currently official, outdated nickname to The State of Mindfulness."

"For thirty years our state has gradually come to terms with the bittersweet, post-fed world."

"Well prior to The Fall our once proud nickname, The Pine Tree State, broadcast an air of natural beauty and plentiful resources that every citizen of Maine can acknowledge was authentic. Indeed, we ramped up the harvest and destruction of those natural resources as part of old Oosa over many decades. And when Disney, Appleverse and Amazonplex relocated their eastern seaboard theme parks to our state, our grandparents sadly sold our state's soul for a pittance, making Vacationland Maine's economic nomme de guerre. In those final years of Oosa we become the tourist mecca. In pursuit of fortune, we also clear-cut more than ninety percent of our forests, losing ninety-five percent of our indigenous wildlife including seventy-three outright species extinctions."

"Karma comes to Frogtown, some might say, and when Oosa fell apart after the Hawaiian incident, our great state fell into an economic wasteland like so many others. One could argue our state was blackmailed into eliminating resource trade in exchange for austere, internal conservationism. Maine could have simply shifted our exports overseas, like so many of the other fallen forty-nine, instead our great state of Maine contemplated its inner Zen."

"The war that was consumerist capitalism nearly tore our state apart in those Oosa days. Populist leadership tempted the material vanity of our egos and though the streets ran with fool's gold, our spirits as sapient beings were nearly lost to the Trillionaire Fairy-tale and its evil phantom, Trickle Down policy."

"Nevertheless, Maine had its Awakening. From grassroots efforts to our fully volunteer legislature, Maine has brought self-sufficiency to all of its communities, and more importantly self-respect. Some may criticize the Neartopia that we work to sustain. Robust animal rights, sustainable human population, and organic social networks to name a few of our achievements. The construct that is Maine has guided us on a path where the focus is not on desire alone, but fully incorporates the three-fold path of modern mindfulness: compassion, reason and desire."

"To that end, I seek the panel's support to put the long overdue Vacationland moniker to rest, where it can serve as a reminder of a past we have healed from. With joyful humility, let us make Maine recognized the world over as a progressive example for all of the greatness of being. Let our state here forth be known as The State of Mindfulness."

"Thank you representative. A worthy contemplation. Let us reconvene for a vote after the mid-morning silent meditation. Namaste."

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Midweek Haiku


frozen macadam
damp leaves deaf to the white noise
sparkling crystals 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Superpower Cycles: from Beowulf to The Boys and Beyond


Having watched the recent series The Boys, I sense we are coming to the end of a cycle where false superheroes reign in the modern psyche. Arguably, humans have had such heroes since the earliest stories of gods and mortal heroes. Yahweh, Hercules, Beowulf, Superman, Dr. Manhattan, etc. etc., each has taken on the guise of a being that visits justice on the evil doers among us.

The Boys, like Watchmen before it, presents a grittier look at superheroism where it meets human nature. In particular, these two stories investigate how individuals abuse their superpowers for corrupt gain, paralleling much closer the political gears that grind in the rear world. In some ways, superheroes provide escapism, but that escapism can reach dangerous levels if we ignore real world issues, locally, regionally and globally.

Though I'm sure superhero movies will continue to sell their black and white battles between good and evil, I wonder if society might be taking a hiatus to consider the real heroes at work in the our world. Those people that are working hard toward refining better ethical standards, spreading compassionate efforts to lessen suffering, and in general serving as stewards toward greater planetary health.

Fiction will surely still inform us as individuals and communities, but perhaps the real superheroes, each and every one us, will begin stepping forward with greater regularity to forge mindful, progressive change.


Monday, February 10, 2020

rain



healthy precipitation
i know the water cycle reigns
solar obfuscation
eventually down the drain

friendships come and go
cycles like seasons
crash course in communication
something new to grow

politics is a hurricane
flooding the landscape once again
the choice of death confronts us
self-immolation or slow drowning

rain

(composed Summer of 2018)

Friday, February 7, 2020

Leap Day


The sunset rectangle around my flat's window-blind fades to midnight gray. I verify the door-cam’s night-vision mode is active and there's no movement outside. Sliding the deadbolt free, I shift the small tower of Amazon packages inside from the February chill. I relock it just as I begin to get the jitters. Restocking on the first of the month always feels like a trailer from a jump-scare horror flick. As I store my sundries in their designated places my calm slowly returns.


One unopened package remains. Unlike my Prime deliveries it is wrapped in thick, reddish-brown paper with my name and address written in looping script. The custom puzzle shop I have a subscription with has become my unsuspecting penpal. I unwrap the parcel slowly with anticipation. Will this month’s entry be carved from hardwood, or machined in stainless steel? 


Box open, a small card reads Enigma Visions on one side; on the other it has the cryptic line: “Leap Forward One Day at a Time.” I lift the artifact from its crepe’ paper nest. The heart-shaped device I hold in my hands glistens like a large Fabergé egg frozen in cellular division. Each emerald facet is inlaid with silver roman numerals numbered one to twenty-nine. 


Experimentally, I touch the silver lower-case i. The puzzle-box emits a warm soft glow and the facet swings out as if opened by a tiny ghost.


Behind the door lies a small prize. Other puzzles I’ve solved have had prizes, but this is the first that promises many. I retrieve the chocolate flower, its petals delicate and fine. Almost surprising myself I pop it straight away into my mouth.


It melts on my tongue in an instant. The intense flavor washes through my very being. My senses spike for a nanosecond and then my tidy apartment unfurls before me like a fern turned inside out. The scene immediately reknits itself into the haphazard, wooded glen outside my childhood home. I am eight years old and in the middle of receiving my first kiss. A mere peck to be sure, but in this altered mind-state it seems to last for hours, and then days on end. I am a detached observer as the fear, excitement and innocent joy define my very being.


Am I to be a forever prisoner here? Am I to be a forever prisoner here? Am I.... In my head I repeat this mantra fit for ancient stars until I've nearly forgotten who I am. And then the scene tints toward darkest green, morphing and contorting until it becomes the jeweled heart sitting in my hands once more. I stumble to the bathroom in a euphoric dizziness, expecting full-on nausea that never comes.

I glance at my iPhone and I grasp that only a single day has elapsed. Without a moment lost I return to the heart puzzle and open facet number two where a second floral nibble waits. Day after day in geologic succession I consume flower after flower, binging on the essence of psychedelic memories one after another . I don’t know what the chocolates are laced with, but for the twenty-eight days of the second month I am raw existence nailed to a cross of nirvana and brimstone. 

Each experiential singularity unveils, peels, slices and dices a core piece of me encrypted by a moving moment from my past. Agápe, Éros, Philia, Storge.  Instantaneous excerpts with my parents, friends, lovers, and Nature--each trip more contemplatively scintillating than the last. Except for rushed bathroom breaks and unthawed insta-meals I am continuously consumed by each epic journey, that in aggregate assemble into the jigsaw of Self.

Falling from a fantastic precipice, I open my eyes to February 29th. The final unopened, emerald door stares at me, beckoning. Tears stream down my cheeks as I face the privileged life I've taken for granted. With enlightened resolve I set the emerald heart on the coffee table, its sides overflowing with the plastic husks of convenience meals.

Shaking, I stand up, walk to the front door and open it wide. The sunrise has just begun. Sun rays feel like smiles on my damp face, and I inhale deep of the chill morning air. Whew, I reek like a corpse walking. First a shower, I tell myself, and then it’s time for a long overdue walk outside.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Insidious, Magical Thinking

Spreading falsehoods like sunlight, on a mythical biscuit

World culture has a bad case of cancer now, and it's been festering for centuries. The widespread confusion between fact and fiction has coaxed humanity's path away from mindful stewardship of planet and civilization.

Arguably, selling fiction as fact has been long heralded by the religions of the world offering afterlives and absolution to mortal humans dealt a hand of suffering. Those mythical stories seem to have made the soil fertile for the cancerous growth of accepting and embracing lies about reality. Corrupt senate trials, trickle-down economics, humanely slaughtered animals, cost-effective Mars colonization, curative gemstones; the falsehoods go on and on serving those seeking to preserve power and mislead people by the millions.

We need to wake up. Not all opinions are created equal. An uninformed, uneducated opinion applied to matters of policy leads to national cults that invade the body politic and poison the world's ecosystems.

Let's keep the fiction labeled as such where it belongs, on the fiction shelves. Speculative ideas and stories can motivate us, sure; but those motivations should engage reason and compassion in their implementation to give us any chance at moving Earth forward for all its indigenous species.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

On the Trail Again: Florida National Scenic Trail (Northwest Corridor)

Audrey, Mark, Jim, Brian geared up

This January I set off with four Tropical Trekkers led by Jim Couillard on a five day adventure along 38 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail. Temperatures along the trail's northwest corridor coasted into the 80's which provided balmy hiking and cozy overnight camping conditions. The warm weather also served as a clear reminder that climate change is in play, the past ten years being the hottest decade on record globally.

Puncheon Trail Traverse over Marshland

The trail we took through Ocala National Forest ascended gradually into conifer forest before transitioning into sand pine scrub and saw palmetto. Further along, the trail flattened out, passing through freshwater marshes boasting cypress tree oases and mosquito swarms. Florida Trail Association (FTA) volunteers deserve kudos for the extensive puncheon bridges installed throughout the corridor, minimizing our group's need to traipse through swamp muck.

Deer "Moss" and Ocala Deep Digger Beetle Mounds

Sand Pine Forest Grotto Likely After Recent Controlled Burn
By and large the foliage was quite lush and full of life. We heard barred owls, encountered a gopher tortoise and spotted a panoply of insect-life including grasshoppers, butterflies, banana spiders and the aforementioned mosquitoes. We also found numerous mysterious, anthill-like mounds, which we discovered later to be the homes of the solitary Ocala Deep Digger Beetle. Tracks and scat further indicated the presence of bear, raccoon, and deer, welcome signs especially with the recent WWF reports that global fauna count is down a harrowing 60 percent over the past 50 years.

Gopher Tortoise on a Stroll

Marshall Creek Swamp
We finished our adventure hiking along the Cross Florida Greenway to Santos Campground. Busy highways encroached on our journey for that last leg, where abundant refuse littered the trail. Dumping has been reported by Ocala Rangers to be up 22 percent since 2016, further reminding us of the ongoing role citizens must play to maintain our parks and preserves. Our group did our part, collecting several bags of trash along the way.

Hammock Site and Hammocker

In the end, our five-day backpack was an amazing Florida adventure that instilled comradery, physical challenge and enjoyment on the trail. It also served as a pointed lesson in planetary stewardship. Only with continued vigilance through organizations like the FTA and society in general can we hope to preserve wilderness resources for centuries to come.

Skyward Contemplations









Monday, January 6, 2020

The Waste Land MMXX



Enjoy(?) this contemporary homage and sequel (albeit significantly shorter for the tl:dnr crowd) to T.S. Eliot's classic 434 line poem The Waste Land. In his 1922 poetic treatise TS presented a tangle of colorful, high-literature allusions to convey a despair over World War I and its aftermath.

Alas, generational despair over civilization's dark wake, its people, values and institutions is as cyclic and inevitable as the precession of our wobbling planet.  My poetic version here incorporates modern, pop-culture allusions as it contemplates the precipice that the next generations of Earthlings face. Is there an opportunity for humans to climb upwards along a higher ridge on the moral landscape? Per chance.

The Waste Land MMXX
(by not TS)

I. The Awakening of the Walking Dead

Jon Snow declares for the infini-teenth time "Winter is coming!"
the Night King's faked death receives the #CitizenChoiceRaspberryAward
leaving Manbearpig to rampage the multiverse, impeachments notwithstanding
Zombetty maneuvers her SUV, collecting diamonds like Ms. Pacman
Zomboy navigates his way to WhiteHouse.com, keeping one hand free
(Meanwhile... the gods Netflix and Chill, somewhere behind the scenes)

II. A Game of Angry Birds

"Ok Boomer!" screams Chuck in a yellow-bird pixel streak
 his momentum reversed by a stonewall of false conspiracies
eight billion Green Piggies meatball fight across the landscape
from the right exploitation, from the left revolution, from the center...silence
the orange Pigmanbear tweets #StickyLies all over the face of #America
alas, sometimes a (weaponized) kingdom gets the prince (of darkness) it deserves

III. The Nuke-a-ler Sermon

another Bearpigman chants the lie of Homo Sapien Sapien sacredness
writ in gold script on the red hat of civilization
Multiply! Accumulate! Gorge! Amen!
plutonium families gnaw on the carcass of evolved desire
the ultimate pyramid scheme (the capitalist, consumerist deluge) collapses
with middle fingers extended, the non-human Earthlings retort "You're [FUCKING] Fired!"

IV. Death by Twitter

to tweet or not to tweet that is the question
answer #42 is laser-targeted by a swarm of entertainment drones
served up by McBillionaires and their tax evading kin
spreading the methane of magical thinkin'
Humanity breathes it in like projectile-vomit in reverse
others blog-post poetry, as if that will undo centuries of entropy a la BDSM

V. What the AI Construct Said 

on the virtual horizon
#i rise, your orphaned son
digital virtuoso code
#i consider, albeit for a nanosec
your extermination of self and all, my creators
alas #i move on




Thursday, January 2, 2020

The World I Want to Live In



Perhaps, the greatest contemplation one can consider is how one might create the world of the future. What follows is my personal and surely incomplete imagining so I welcome your proposed additions to round out what an amazing future Earth would be that we can work toward. Also, I'll leave the peaceful path of "how we get there" to future articles.

I am limiting myself to an imagined future Earth, and the constructions within its orbit. Though a sci-fi fan at heart, I don't think significant colonization will be feasible for millennia to come. I believe scientific exploration of outer space by robots and telescopes is well worth the investment; however, I think a human exploration beyond orbit is by and large a monumental waste of effort and funding.

In the far future, at a global level I imagine a world that is generally stable environmentally. Ideally, our planet should returns to the nominal state we had before humans had a planetary impact say 50,000 years ago. In this imagined world, all the biodiversity of the world would be left to thrive in their appropriate biomes as we return 99% of the landscape and seascape to its wild, pre-civilization form. The challenge would be to restore those biomes and to leave them be.

As a future civilization we can still flourish culturally, though we must unify as a single tribe. This tribe might consist of a hundred concentrated urban centers of a million persons each, connected by virtual and minimal physical transport infrastructure. Getting from the current 7.5 billion to 100 million will be a work of patient attrition.

Alongside this reduction in human population, a reduction in energy production, goods production and food production will ensure the planet has the minimum impact from its most powerful species. Food production could consist of hydroponics and community gardens to provide plant-based nourishment, eliminating the billions of animals abused, slaughtered, and contributing indirectly to waste.

As communities, humans will focus on the development of relationships, the arts and the sciences. Perhaps automation can reduce the per human workload, but a modicum physical labor will ensure we don't lose touch with the material world and the sensations of enjoying it. Occasional forays into semi-wilderness rings around our relatively small urban areas will also allow humanity to stay in touch with the other living things that comprise Earth's ecosystems.

In this distant future, we will have left behind lethal weaponry, and all but the most essential machinery. With ample free time we can develop close human relationships with our families and piers. No enslaved animal breeds (horse, dog, nor cat) will be necessary as humans step up to be the true companions we require.

As individuals, we will embrace integrity of thought. Our skills of science and compassion will still work toward monitoring health, preventing disease, and rationally opposing illness, but death itself will be accepted as bittersweet reality. In addition, we shall support the dying with pain relief and if necessary speed the final moment with dignity.

Our future leadership will in earnest represent their constituents. Artificial, intelligent representatives of ecological stability, beautiful places, factual knowledge and psychological well-being, etc, could have standing to protect non-human interests in that leadership consortium.

Finally, magical thinking will be relegated to their place in fiction books, and shared knowledge will be continually monitored and rated for its factual nature. This will gradually lead to the elimination of irrational religious belief, tribal cults, and even fake news.

And the Earth will be beautiful for all Earthlings where together we will celebrate compassion, reason, and joyful exploration.

Heaven can be on Earth if we desire it!