Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Happy Holidays!!!

"Happy Holidays!" 

As a greeting this one rules! To be sure, this time of year I have come to accept the role of being a secular christian. To be clear, I leave all the zany mythology of Nazarene virgin births and god-made-man patriarchy behind, but embrace the cultural togetherness of my family during the end of the calendar year.

At the source of my seasonal joy are childhood memories of unwrapping presents, baking cookies with Mom, magical tree and yard lighting, and fantastical storytelling, particularly of a certain reindeer with a glow-in-the-dark nose. And as an adult, the ritual of giving and simply sharing good times together as a family dominates the holiday moment for me.

So, why not give in to going to a candlelight Christmas service, singing carols, let alone exchanging Merry Christmases with random passerby. Well, because we all have to draw the line at a place which respects others yet respects ourselves too.

In my adulthood, I've often celebrated Winter Solstice or Human Light as a demonstration of my sense of community and tradition among secular humanists. Yet, even Solstice has its somewhat zany connection to pagan traditions, wherein ceremonies were held to entice the Sun's return. As if humans had any say in the matter. 

Winter Solstice does have a metaphorical joy that includes looking forward to longer days of sunlight, alas even that only applies to those of us in the northern hemisphere each December. A more thoughtful secular astronomical connection might be to celebrate aphelion, the moment when the Earth is at its furthest point in orbit and the Sun's gravity manages to pull us back each year to stay within the Goldilocks Zone of our solar system. 

So, until we recognize "Happy Aphelion!" (which occurs for all Earthlings in early July) as the holiday cheer it deserves to be, I'll stick with "Happy Holidays!" as the more inclusive, joyful exchange. That way I'll ensure I give respect to each individual's "holiday" world view. In fact, be ready for me to aver "Happy Holidays" in both late December and early July, or any day in between. As Penn Gillette was fond of saying "Every day is an atheist holiday!"

"Happy Holidays!"

Friday, November 26, 2021

Contemplating Grateful Living

Cheers to another year on this planet as a contemplative being!

One can go through life on instinct, experiencing every moment for the pure experience of it without second guessing the ethical underpinnings or implications.

One can rely on fixed dogma to determine what has value to avoid a life of ambiguity and confusion.

One can examine mindfully ones choices infused with the spectrum of human emotion, yet always questioning both means and ends toward improving the world. 

On this day and every day taking the time to be thankful can be part of a joyful feedback loop that celebrates the awareness of being everywhere and an appreciation the amazing, external world.

Thanks be!

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

everyday magic

welcome to this wonderful world we live in
 where goddesses and gods have danced their last dance
  though dogma still haunts the corners of the real world
   everyday magic sparkles to provide, protect and thrill outright

the beauty of the universe waves its natural wand
 revealing vast libraries of amazing mysteries
  inaccessible to ancient soul interpretations
   but at the ready in the biomolecular alchemy of the mind

the zen of a movie shared with a friend
 casting a spell of emotional comprehension
  while novels build fantastic worlds overnight
    stage actors deliver nuance with verbal dynamite

blind faith and supernatural secrets
 bump their head on scientific insight
  the ancient walls of runic dustiness
    glimmer rainbows when painted with wisdom and light

kisses and conversation stir the elixir of life
 no angels needed to conjure up delight
  for these reasons and infinite more
   everyday magic turns our imaginations bright


Friday, October 8, 2021

Real Places

Hiking the foothills of the Rocky Mountains I found my very being especially present in this amazing space. Below me lay a glacial lake glinting azure in the afternoon sun. Two amazing yet sadly dwindling glaciers melting in the Autumn of the Anthropocene Era stretch beside me. And in the distance snow-capped summits soar several thousand feet higher than me yet loom deceptively at eye level.

What also looms in the moment is the importance we give to the heres and theres of where we have been. Many times I have recounted with friends the countries, states and cities that we have visited, alongside storied memories. In fact, Idaho and Oregon remain in my unvisited state list and these two names beckon me to visit them, and yet they are just names of boundaried land. These expansive places were roamed upon by native peoples for millennia past and by native sentient creatures for eons well before a relatively ephemeral United States claimed and configured them into surveyed property entities. 

My point is that places like Idaho and Oregon (and Colorado), beautiful as the land within their drawn lines may be, are abstract concepts that sometimes align with mountain ridges, river centerlines and ocean edges. Might we forget for a moment that humans attempt to force ownership upon every square foot of the Earth? Might we envision the more interesting demarcations that Nature has drawn without any consultation of the local zoning departments?

Earth is the most obvious discreet place that transcends human labeling. Even though a handful of humans have escaped her gravity, the global environment is one planetary place all Earthlings call home.

Next, one might suggest Continents as definitive places here on Earth; however, they are but convenient manipulations of human perception. Better that we ascribe tectonic plates as the foremost geologic subdivisions. These sliding masses have discreet edges that diverge and converge, yet are locational entities that are ever more real than whimsical continents.  

Living spaces are another inherent, real location from the perspective of all Earthlings. Those places where conditions are right to support the various tapestries of life. These biomes are even more fluid than tectonic plates, shifting with the seasons and with sentient and instinctive territory movement. Human Earthlings wander with their chattel creatures anywhere they please, making us think twice about our evolutionary origins and the limits other Earthling species have in their long term survival.

Many other discreet, concrete places could be compiled. Elemental, matter phase, temperate, pressurized, photonic, radioactive, lunar influenced, seismic, et al. So many paradigms to overlook unless you are immersed in a particular scientific study or attentive to a momentary contemplation.  To be sure the variety of real places within Earth are indifferent to our human opinions. And yet the fact we can find those real places special, demonstrates our species is capable of recognizing beauty even when it doesn't rely on a connection to our self-perceived specialness--quite the ironic feeling.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

On the Impact of Large Populations

When it comes down to it majorities do rule, often with little care for minorities. Except of course when powerful minorities dominate. One might be tempted to associate these principles within human communities alone where politics and tribalism have run rampant throughout human history. Alas, the numbers game reaches well beyond petty societal squabbles, international militancy, and all the human relationship modalities in between.

The fact that Hydrogen and Helium have remained the most abundant elements in the observable Universe for billions of years demonstrates how the population of inert matter domination affects things significantly. Thus we have stars, that in time create rarer elements and the possibilities for rarer molecules and eventually the rarest assemblies of life and organized information.

Here on Earth, the dominant population of homo sapiens has become so successful via natural selection intertwined with human sacredness that a steamroller effect has decimated the diversity around us. When one travels one sees the profligacy of humanity in all the infrastructure that has been built to support higher populations of humans at the expense of the populations of everything else.

Perhaps human populations are plateauing, and perhaps human culture is gradually recognizing the implicit sacredness of other species and of the natural places that are special even if not a single human benefits from them. Sadly, much of the damage is done and the heart of a thriving, populous humanity has many centuries of decimating momentum ahead. 

All the more reason as individuals to minimize our impact while harvesting the experience of a minimalist life. Which is to say a large population multiplied by less exploitive behaviors will reduce the harm somewhat. Consolation psychology is one refuge for minorities everywhere.

Still it is possible that minority influencers might corral the herd toward better choices, choices that can result in a healthier planet from all perspectives.

Monday, August 23, 2021

A Military Transformation

One might observe that the military forces of the world have a single age old mission: protect the citizenry. 

One might also observe the militaries of the world have failed at this single mission now for many decades. Perhaps they simply have been fighting the wrong wars with the wrong attitude. Case in point, arguably the attack on September 11, 2001 was the only sizable foreign attack on the US in the past fifty years; horribly 3,000 US citizens died and the military couldn't prevent it. In the military aftermath, trillions of dollars were spent and tens of thousands of civilian casualties inflicted to counter this threat. Yet, from Iraq to Afghanistan, the only people with smiles on their faces was the industrial war complex as they swim in profits. Sadly, America has been sold that violence is the solution.

In my imagined neartopia, the armed forces will be significantly transformed. Massive navies, air forces, and infantries simply are a thing of the past. Were the nations of the world to unify under a NATO style world force they could enforce the occasional unruliness of undemocratic uprisings and warlord insurgencies. This is no easy task, but if accomplished the dream of deploying appropriate resources to actually protect citizens could be implemented.

Give the hundreds of thousands lost to Covid-19, the first new military branch I'd start is the Bio-Corp. With America's armed forces minimized our country alone would have near unlimited resources to actually addresses Nature's ongoing pathogenic attacks on our citizenry. The Bio-Corps could effectively prepare and mobilize for these outbreaks and contain them, saving millions of lives every year worldwide from would-be virus and bacterial pandemics.

Being that it is the 21st Century, next in line, I'd create a Cyber-Corps. This military branch would actively securing data transactions and intellectual property across the world. Utilizing all the modern technologies including block-chain, a single stable world currency and contract clearing house could be established that would eliminate all corrupt and criminal transactions. In the end a trust in human value exchanges around the world could be tied to actual benefit to the planet, rather than economic hubris. 

Finally, an Eco-Corps would be essential. This military branch would battle against the human destruction that has devastated the world climate, eradicated thousands of wildlife species, and generally endangered the health of the planet. Countless lives, human and non-human, would see increased safety and improved life experience were we to deploy a fully funded environmental force. 

My scheme is of course a pipe-dream...today. But if tomorrow we were to retire the majority of military infrastructure, we could see real benefit across the world. We are now fighting each other for a short term taste of vestigial superiority, and a false sense of security. Our resources and our time would be much better spent directing efforts toward the real enemies that are killing our planet and our fellow humans along with it. 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Putting the Care into Communication

In essence, relationships are about communication and the effects that result therefrom. This applies from the lowliest quark interaction to grandest galactic interconnections. Somewhere in between, human relationships invoke the experience brought together by our minds and bodies.  When these complex systems interact, our lives may bloom or wither to varying degrees. 

Recognizing the human system as complex is important; millions of evolutionary years have gone into programming much of our base reactions. Nevertheless, we are not a prisoner to our natural origins; maturity in communication arises from learning and experience.  This does not mean maturity ignores base feelings; instead, it involves integrating emotional sensation and intellectual experience into the whole of being.

Feelings, in particular, may blind one in the moment. The desire to fight or take flight can be irresistible when negative feelings arise. Walking away for a short time may be the best action when emotions become overwhelming. Take a short period to reflect, and factor in your base and higher responses with what you perceive is meaningful to the other person. Don't let the fear of confrontation derail the process for too long, as such silences can suffocate the other in feelings of abandonment. Even leaving a note to indicate you care and just need some time to process can be a significant part of a mature initial response.  

Understanding your triggers and trying to understand those of your counterpart can be part of this contemplation. Whether a friendship or a romance is on the line, using deep empathy in the communication process can assist you to see the joy and pain potentials on both sides. Take this useful information and integrate it into conversation. Sometimes the communication method itself can be a trigger, as some people are less comfortable having such intense conversations in real time. An exchange of written thoughts can serve as an ice breaking mechanism. If your connection is purely online or remote, this may suffice, but ultimately the conversation should manifest as closely and as in-person as both parties feel comfortable. To that end, the ongoing relationship level reflection the mutuality that is desired on both sides.

Sometimes communication fails, usually derailing on one side. This effectively cuts the communication line, and can cause distress, especially for the one who feels they had no choice in it. Conscious or not, this is effectively a demonstration of power, not compassion. Ideally, a respectful resolution of issues between both parties is the desired outcome, permitting the relationship to continue or subsided. Alas, this isn't always the case, and an unresolved dispute may leave one or both people feeling hurt. When this type of impasse is reached one mature option could be to make a compassionate gesture wishing the other well. It may seem trite, but all can benefit if kindness gets the final word in a final farewell.

In the end, relationships are about sharing with those around us. If we share memes that are joyful and rational, the world will tend to copy and spread those good memes.  Each of us is part of and participant to the imperfect Universe, that we may wax within it with earnest intention. As such, our intentions have significant inertia to overcome and significant opportunity. If we make an effort to care and understand we will not only get better at it, we just might sway the hearts of others for the better as well.