Sunday, May 27, 2018

Happy Better Holidays!

As the Summer season engages informally this weekend, rain be damned, we celebrate!

Holidays are welcomed with joy by the multitudes, especially those who work with too few vacation days. It's no wonder that that the reasons behind holidays are connected with important historical events tied to nation-forming and religious tradition.  The forging of our communities and nation states often are connected to military action and myth, alas would it not be better to celebrate the progressive movement forward as a global civilization?

I think so. To the ends of reforming our holiday system I propose these thirteen holidays to give authentic reason to celebrate!

Resolution Day (January 1) Often dismissed as frivolous the current New Years Day has so much symbolic potential. (Ideally the whole calendar should be shifted to put January 1 on the Winter Solstice to synchronize modern minds with an ancient tradition of a new beginning) Beyond the ceremony of flipping year digits, the beginning of a new year give we humans the opportunity to reflect upon our past and to form positive goals for the next annum. Rather than experiment with hangover remedies, let's make Resolution Day a day we gather with family and friends to codify the joy and meaning we will pursue for the dozen months ahead.

Humanity Day (February 1) For better or worse humans are at the center of our global civilization. Celebrating the worth of each human, therefore, should be a core holiday. Touting human individuals and the communities they belong to may seem misguided to some since our species brings such devastation to the world. Nevertheless, we are the one species we know of that can codify ideas, communicate them and implement them planet-wide and beyond. Because sapience is our unique, evolution-given gift; let us celebrate how lucky we are, help those humans who are struggling, and imagine how we might do better!

Education Day (March 1) Our gift of sapience is nothing if we do not nurture its possibilities. Every human should have access to acquiring the best skills at understanding the wealth of knowledge humanity has accumulated. The institutions, standards, and milestones of learning are all too often taken for granted. Children in economically challenged areas are most in need of educational normalization. This holiday could embrace service that seeks to widen educational access, build schools, and build mentor/mentee connections. A lifelong love of learning for all should be at the center of this celebration.

Ecology Day (April 1) We humans are indeed fools for treating our planet like a disposable candy wrapper. The interconnected ecosystems of our world have achieved an amazing, dynamic balance over the course of billions of years. We humans are one species intertwined in the living world of millions of species that call Earth home. Yet since we have incredible power to change ecosystems we should encourage greater awe in the world and its constituents around us. Celebrating the beauty and health of the planet with activism, education and outdoors activity is a great start to achieving this.

Relationship Day (May 1) We are all children of our parents, alas all too often our connection to family members and friends is left lagging to career and circumstance. Rather than genuflect toward our mothers, fathers and grandparents like holidays of old, we should each and everyone of us reach out to connect with the people that give meaning to our lives and work toward healing wounds with those we have turned away from.

Diplomacy Day (June 1) Military holidays of the past have memorialized loved ones we have lost and the causes they fought for, which can be well and good. Nevertheless, we should allow those losses and gains inspire us to do better in the future, to avoid military posturing and reduce the related hugely wasteful spending it has inculcated into our global culture. Evolution may have primed our species toward aggression; let us defy that predisposition by celebrating peaceful and constructive paths to challenge resolution.

Constitution Day (July 1) As our nation states lean ever closer toward centralized, global civilization we should continually celebrate the democratic process and its dynamic nature. Old commandments delivered my mythological characters might inspire us, alas only thoughtful discussion and tireless effort can improve gradually upon the constructs of law that our species forges to govern ourselves and our actions in this world. Constitutional achievements and aspirations deserve celebration!

Healthiness Day (August 1) Physical health is a key to living a satisfying life. This applies not only to humans, but to our sentient cousins and the environments we all live in. Celebrating healthiness reinforces the tenets of Ecology Day by centering our attentiveness on our personal lifestyles to encourage the thriving of all conscious creatures.

Economy Day (September 1) The economic market has often been cited as the lifeblood of a civilization. To that ends we should celebrate our global economy and its development toward being ever more effective.  A global economy that incorporates the true value of resources, fair labor, sentient creature well-being, and environmental health will leave selfish indicators like profit margin and national production behind will be dearly worth dancing for.

Imagination Day (October 1) Human beings are creative in their very natures. Indeed, creating and enjoying works of fiction, art and music throughout our lives is inseparable from being human. Activities that encourage the imagination inspire joyfulness in being human while developing skills and connection with fellow humans and the world.

Governance Day (November 1) In support of continual progress toward constitutional betterment, a day is set aside to enable each of us to partake in the governmental process. Voting is a key part of this holiday where all are encouraged to choose those who represent us, but to also enable us to learn how to contribute to the governing process as citizens the rest of the year.

Universe Day (December 1) Even with all our human capabilities the scale and mystery of the Universe exceeds our imagination. Our ancestors created deities and myths in an attempt to capture this awe. Our modern minds still recognize the raw awesomeness of existence, life, beauty and love. This holiday encourages us to look inward and outward toward these abstract infinities.

Thanksgiving Day (December 31) A bonus holiday at the year's end fittingly wraps up the 365.242189 rotations our planet went through. Giving thanks for every moment, every person, every breath, every thought, every creature, every meal, ever experience, every everything is well deserved. Not to mention it links us with Resolution Day to start and improve upon the annual cycle once more!

(And celebrate these better holidays we should; in fact, we should dedicate the whole month after each holiday to address finer points behind the meaning each holiday began with.)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Facts Taking Flight

I was paddling the Johnstone Strait many years ago when my guide informed me of a bird identification rule-of-thumb. "Notice that bird flying above," he said. "The feathers sticking from the wing's ends are called pinions. For example, crows have five pinions, while ravens have four." After a pause he added, "so you might say the difference between a crow and a raven is a matter of a pinion."

Groans aside, this joke underscores the inherent difficulty we as individuals have communicating with our peers what is taking place in reality. Recently, I've been confronted by family members who argue facts are merely a person's opinion, a new acquaintance who insists the Moon landing never happened, and a misguided leader who tweets that reliable journalistic sources are nothing but big fake news.

Testable, reproducible evidence alongside supportable logic is what separates fact from fiction, alas it does not do so with the certainty that too many ideologies themselves profess. When our thought processes pursue a rational route, the likelihood of a claim can be determined so as to better integrate ideas with our world view and or implement policy, personal, national or global.

The sun rising is an apocryphal example where widespread belief matched statistical evidence until subtle frame of reference clues were included in the scientific evaluation. Most people today subscribe to the updated idea that the Earth moves around the Sun. Casually we still describe the sun as rising as a relative (and poetic) rather than absolute indication of motion. (Fun fact: the Sun itself moves too; it revolves around the Milky Way's center of mass, in a ellipse that is not flat, but which has a constantly changing sinusoidal altitude).

Importantly, total certainty is never the outcome of a rational analysis. This gives wiggle room for extraordinary beliefs to override even the most sensible, scientific, logical conclusions, especially when testability is thrown aside. As an extreme, consider the scenario in which some imagined higher power has just recreated the whole Universe three seconds ago, complete with every motion and memory intact. This scenario is untestable, and in such an imagined world we can have no certainty of anything, which is why the inherent idea that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" enables us to operate with sanity in the real world.

Sadly, there is little hope I'll be able to convince everyone I meet that we evolved alongside all life on Earth, that Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon, or even that there are no angels dancing on the pinheads stuck in a presidential voodoo doll.  Still maybe I can get a laugh or two out of the trials and tribulations of ravens and crows vying for prominence in a punch line.

In the wake of groaning chuckles, I might just be able to slip in a comment that doing good for goodness sake is the way to go!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018