Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Loner Nation

Home Alone?
Recently I had been looking for a place to rent. After having lived by myself for the past twenty years, I simply wanted to rent a room, ideally in someones house who had extra space.  I figured so long as I had enough space for a bed, a desk and the ability to share kitchen and bath facilities, I would be living in a way that would benefit the environment and reduce consumerist culture.  Additionally, I thought having a roommate would be positive.

This situation got me to thinking: just what was the state of single residency in the US.  I wasn't too surprised to learn the most current US census (per a 2014 Washington Post article) reported that 27 percent of Americans now live by themselves; a figure which had increased from 5 to 27 percent over the past century.  This was in part attributed to Americans' ever growing sense of independence and in part due to the elderly outliving spouses on average for longer periods of time.

As a thought experiment, I found myself imagining how a single living paradigm might have established itself in the distant past and for living alone to possibly trend ever higher into the distant future.

With paleontological insight, I envision human ancestors competing for much of the past 100,000+ years as primal, social animals; these intelligent creatures likely evolved traits that reinforced relying on close quarter community to survive.  On a daily basis this would amount to sleeping in groups, gathering food and creating shelter together, sharing information, and vying for right to take part and lead within the community.  I also imagine individuals would still spend time alone, perhaps exploring with curiousity or contemplating the beauty and mystery of the local surroundings and the self.

In contrast, looking far into the future, I can envision an ever growing isolationist society, one not too different from that envisioned in Isaac Asimov's novel The Naked Sun where humans had isolated themselves to such a great degree, that they communicated exclusively by viewscreen, and then only rarely. In fact, these future homo sapiens were so shy, that the murder central to Asimov's story was considered unimaginable.  Are we heading toward a world where virtual connections become the vestigial remains of the community our species once celebrated?

In the present, one might say we're well on our way to that world. Virtual gaming, working from home, texting and selfie posting suffuse our current society, allegedly enhancing our community connections. It seems to me conversations, group pow-wows, and sharing of our inner selves is gradually eroding away.  Sure, there are venues where interaction occurs for those who are otherwise single and independent: connecting with colleagues at brick-and-mortar offices, spending time with families during a holiday or vacation, or even connecting with live groups at spiritual and secular gatherings.

Still, it seems many of us in singledom have chosen a lifestyle where we return regularly to spacious apartments and multi-bedroom homes to sit alone, harvesting surrogate affection from pets or virtual friends.

Being single can be a celebration of independence, but perhaps we should be more mindful of our heritage of community.  By converting some of our strength of independence into grassroots community energy, we can challenge ourselves forge ever closer connections, both in our homes and out.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Layer Cake

Oh what a complex, beautiful, ugly, simple world we live in!

How we live our lives alters and enhances that very world. Our actions spring from the constructs that populate the universe, and the bodies and minds we call our own. Some constructs we share, and some we hold close to our heart, and others we aren't even aware of, even as they drive us.
From Stardust to Sugar-coated Smiles: Rejoice!

Physical reality limits us; evolution pre-programs us; family, religion, state, and world-view indoctrinate us. Sometimes it hardly seems that the self survives this onslaught of primordial and engineered ideology.

Arguments of free will set aside for the moment, our existence and the existence of billions of other sapient (and sentient) creatures complicate the landscape. The tangles of environment, society and economy; lifestyle, friendship, spirituality and sexuality, et al -- each tangle ours to untwist and claim as our own. Simultaneously we must navigate among a myriad of creatures that are defining their own existence.

Nature is a harsh mistress, showing no compromise in the execution of quasi-deterministic micro and macro events.  In contrast, humans, by and large, have taken on the challenge of peaceful coexistence.  Yes, we're a work in progress, ever trying to up our game.  As the capitalist and socialist, the vegan and omnivore, the pious and unbeliever we still strive to make our bedfellows laugh and smile by our side more often than not.

So perhaps there is one human ideal that should show little compromise, a deep commitment to permit all to pursue journeys that are peaceful and delightfully intertwined, (as deliciously intertwined as cake frosting and the carbohydrates, fatty acids and flavors found therein--nothing quite like pushing an analogy to the limit)

Oh what complex, beautiful, ugly, simple lives we possess!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Racing Forward

The state of racial equality in this country has arguably improved over the past 150 years.  Recent events in Baltimore and South Carolina certainly indicate there is plenty of room for further improvement.
Take a Bite Out of Racism

I've often been one to think society is in pursuit of a color-blind equanimity, yet statistics show from preschool to death row, people of color continue to be treated worse than their lighter skinned compatriots.  

I've often been one to wish that I personally can achieve a color-blind equanimity, yet I still find myself at times evaluating a community as unsafe based purely on pedestrian skin shade, and I even find myself having to mentally override an internal unease when simply shaking the hand of someone of more direct African descent than I.

All of which is to say unfairness and prejudice are baked into society and the upbringing of young people, regardless of nascent idealism.  Our challenges as human individuals and society is to persevere, working to minimize prejudice inherent in the system and in ourselves.

Toward that end, we should take every opportunity we can to explore and celebrate respectfully the diverse cultures and people (not to mention the multitude of colorful non-human species) that make the world the amazing place it is.

Friday, July 3, 2015

An Adventure in a Box

Has the real world been too real for you lately?

Find me.
Tired of the standard escapes that books, video games and streaming entertainment offer?

Letterboxing is ready to fill the void.

Grab an old-school compass; pack your wits and love of the outdoors in your daypack.

A challenging puzzle and/or an immersive nature hike await you....with treasure at its end.

Investigate as you see fit.

Atlasquest makes for a good start.