I’ve traveled the world at times in my life. Immersing myself in new cultures. Experiencing my native culture by contrast with the one I’m immersed in. Takes years to slough off the cultural conditioning to the extent we ever can. So I stay years in one place. I also travel in time. We all do. Time travel is similar in that it exchanges one culture for another. You could stay in one place and travel in time. Most folks do that. You can tell you’ve crossed the border when the young speak a slightly different language. In times new country the young start their sentences saying “So”. Being on the road of time for 76 years I have seen the scenes. The language, slang, words re-made, trends become “mems”. Civil rights becomes human rights and morphs into BLM. In my house some mornings have a song. The coffee perks, the computer boots, and I have a song playing in my head. I find it on the computer and crank up the volume. One day last week the song was Marvion Gaye’s “Whats going on”. An atmospheric motown ballad with the stamp of its time, 1970. Protest demanding racial equality and getting brutal response. War as a national sport and litmus for patriotism. Things don’t change much. Only seem to. As with life, genes are reused in different but familiar ways. War still isn’t the answer but love hasn’t conquered hate. The battles are not around Que Son and Kent state. They’re inside the capitol in DC and in Syria. The song lyric, “talk to me, so you can see, what’s going on, What’s going on? I’ll tell you what’s going on. It’s a lament. Another song that never ends. In these terms the virus is an uptick, a big deal but not much different than the wars. The chief difference is that now WE are suffering. Not just foreigners…no, now it’s THEIR fault. Chinese Communism replaced with Chinese Viruses. So what is going on? Business as usual and the usual results…up to a point. What is new is population growth and technology. The result of business as usual will soon show a qualitative difference in result. The population of the world has doubled since that song was on Billboard’s top twenty. The number of players in the nuclear weapons game has at least doubled. The means of delivery of these massive killing machines has also advanced. So (see I’m doing it too!) So, the result of what’s going on puts the flame ever nearer to the fuse. There is not even the pretense of understanding the need to put the breaks on. No comprehension of “what’s going on” before our eyes. Oh, we’ll muddle thru, we always have! No, WE never have, WE are not the people we were. This time, 2021, is a different place where things happen for local reasons not due to precedent or habit. We must, for survival, become civil, civilized, citizens of a community. The virus is getting our attention but the recent riot in DC is a symptom of an infection much worse. It’s an illness with the potential to kill far more of us than Corona. It spreads virally thru the pathways for lies and the exploitation of divisiveness for profit. The masks and social distancing it responds to are compassion, understanding, humility, dialog and compromise. Being civil to one another. Ya, you can hear people saying….”you can’t make me wear that mask”. Arguments for the greater good through our being civil don’t seem to engage any more than advice to wear PPE does. When people die, when horned idiots walk the halls of the congress, we step back…but not enough. When things quiet down we return to the risky behavior, the nasty rhetoric, the proud refusal to compromise. The death rate rises and again we step back. The danse macabre. A waltz to the cliff edge. So, what is going on? You tell me. Not my problem anymore. I can hear the maid in the hall pushing her cleaning cart. For me It’s almost check out time.
Say you’re sorry!
I want to start off this week by apologizing for my race, which is insensitive to the point of dividing humanity into two groups, white and non white. This would be bad enough if there were a “white” race. When you’re reducing complexity to a binary you tend to make things one or the other, up or down, one or zero, black or white. In this case, “us and them”. Now that I have that apology out of the way I can apologize for being “white” and the privilege it brings. This privilege isn’t what it used to be. In the bad old days we had our own drinking fountains. We could enter a building via the front door. The “colored”, a polite way of saying, non-white, had to use the “colored” entrance around back. That might be where they could get a drink of water from the colored water fountain on a hot day. The “colored” sat in the back of the bus and in a theater’s peanut gallery. The euphemism “colored” was itself an apology before white privilege was even heard of. The liberal, humanist, white person, was offering an apology on behalf of the colored person. Something like, “I’m sorry you were born colored, bad luck, not your fault”. This helped assuage the white person’s feeling of guilt. It also preserved the colored person’s dignity in that they didn’t need to apologize for their non whiteness directly. Very few white persons felt guilty about their privilege back then. When those few felt growing remorse they’d send a check off to the United Negro College fund, or the NAACP or give a bigger tip to the doorman at the Ritz. If the privileged white person were also a socialist, stirring dissent among the “darkies”, their check was sent to the W.E.B.duBois Society, a radical organization according to J. Edgar Hoover, himself a minority group member. The closeted cross dressing head of the FBI didn’t feel guilty about white privilege. No, as he straightened the seam in his stockings and powdered the stubble on his chin he thought about commie labor organizers and racial agitators. White privilege, if the concept had existed, would have been an aspect of reality, like gravity or blue sky. Back then, in the depression, even white privilege couldn’t guarantee a job!, and seamless nylons hadn’t been invented. I’m running out of space and I’ve only produced two apologies. Implicit in apologizing for the binary invention “white/colored” is a need to apologize to each and every racial group and subgroup referenced by the now discounted term, “colored”. Asians are non-white of course but not colored, which in the late 60’s became, “Black”. White is a lack of color. Asians were once called, “the yellow races” that had to change when we allied with the Chinese to fight the Japanese in the 1930’s. But the list of needed apologies grows when it’s realized how many different Asian racial groups there are. Thousands probably. Just offering one blanket apology to all Asians, or worse, to all nonwhites, would appear the callous, unthinking, “Tone Deaf” (not just a musical term anymore) gesture it surely would be. So like the old school hand written thank you notes kids were required to produce after an especially lucrative Christmas morning, we’ll need to be thorough. It’s still the white man’s burden, but now it’s sending boatloads of apologies instead of taking boatloads of gold and diamonds. At the rate of one apology a day we can clear the backlog in just a couple of years. If one of the finest families in Virginia can accept Sally Hemming’s decedents the rest of us can say how sorry we are. And now, in this enlightened age, Sally’s great great great grandkids use the front door! indeed!,”The wind done gone”.
The above might run in a local rag or the publisher might pull it for fear of loosing financial contributors. The subject of this essay is the insidious USA “cancel culture” which has taken root here in the land of the free. The publisher is a true believer in freedom of the press but….he needs to buy toner…so he needs to think along practical lines. Wither or not someone has reason to be offended (on behalf of another person) isn’t the question….their turning off the monthly stipend is.
I was provoked by a number of headlines recently to write “Sorry”. Publications are actually retroactively changing their archives! Did any of those journalism majors read Orwell’s 1984 ? What was the protagonist’s job? He revised history. He went into the archives and changed things. He made it so things never happened. “1984” WAS fiction. But, to be PC is to have been PC. We don’t need to learn if we never had a wrong thought. Big brother is fiction about a totalitarian state people! Woke up!, sorry, Wakie wakie ! Woke is a reserved word now….sorry I used it, insensitive of me.
Ted Cruz, the Texas politician and DLT enabler, tried to go to Mexico and get away from the power outage. I would have. You would have. Lets see, Canun and warm or Texas and freezing for four days…Hmmmm a no brainer – if logic is used but we gringos don’t do logic. We also don’t do parody or irony. Bad sign in a culture when an orthodoxy is algorithmically driving humans….see a word, raise a flag, cancel something. No thinking required. This knee jerk action is showing up big time in gringo culture (America is a hemisphere students – not a country)
As soon as things have calmed down virus wise and I’ve had the shot I’ll go back to Ecuador and get back to simple sanity. Or, I could just ignore the internet, nah, can’t do that, sorry, no sanity for you !
“How should we mark the one year anniversary of the lock down?” she ask, I thought a moment and said, “On the Ides of March, the 15th, we should bash a Covid piñata” She wondered if there was such a thing. “We can make one”, I offered. The middle of March 2020 was when I hunkered down. Didn’t go out for two months. That was the start of my WP account. Did anyone think the title of the blog indicated its content? or an exclusive content, the virus? It never was my intent but if I had or not so intended the virus would still have snuck in. It’s done that everywhere. Even a clownish fascists’ putsch got in the act as another super spreader event. A diversion, the Corona virus? or was the clown’s swan song the side show? History will say and even then only be rendering an opinion. Guess its where your interests lie. Me?, being retired to the edge of the woods its all side show. My sincere sympathy to those who trudge thru lockdown trying to earn the rent or mortgage payment. Humanity’s heroes really. Protecting their children and others as they keep society’s machinery running. I’m not expected to be on the front line, too old. Too venerable. Best I can do is avoid being host to mutations. I pass the time cleaning up the shack. Doing projects and organizing. Curating the cabinet of curious collected crapola. Each item with its history and provenance. Concentrating enough to manifest a breakthrough in consciousness. Putting myself back in time to the interglacial period of 25 KYA when the Saraha was green and Doggerland dry. There are people there to greet me. They ask about this era. When I tell them their green savannas will be oven hot sand wastes some day they are amused. Not possible but a novel thought. That the coastal forest beneath the Doggerland hills will become sea bottom. Why?, because the wall of ice a few hundred miles to the north will melt. They’ve heard of the ice from travelers. How could something so grand melt? They’re curious about our technology, finding it awesome. I judge their lives better overall but maybe its because my physical self is rooted here in the early third millennia CE. They fish and trap and collect plants for food and medicine. Their knowledge of the natural world is impressive. They say, “The creator has provided all we need” and it’s true. Wanting ever more regardless of what you have is our sickness. The people of that distant past accept their place in nature and have enough. We try to redefine our place, to be apart, to be in charge. We fail that attempt but also fail to learn. The idea of creating one’s own afterlife appeals to me. It will be Green Saraha or Doggerland’s coast I think. So much of humanity’s great trek out of east Africa is forgotten, un recorded. Twenty-five thousand years ago is not so far. The next interglacial is harder to imagine. Except for one thing. Digging anywhere then you will be uncovering a landfill. The cement, asphalt and brick of cities ground to dust by advancing then retreating ice. This age, the Anthropocene, will have left its mark as a layer of trash.
I recall a moment long ago when time stretched. My new wife and I sat quietly in a county office. A clerk at an old roll top desk scratched in pen on the pages of a ledger. Cheryl and I were content to wait and felt no need to hurry. We floating as on a raft, isolated on a calm sea, drifting on soundless currents. My beautiful lover and I awash in a peaceful silence. Seconds stretched and seemed hours. Nothing demanded that duration be measured. No hour glass turned. No ration of sand, the allotment of event, was demanded or given. A clock played metronome cadence to dancing dust motes in an afternoon sun. Windows glazed in rippled panes distorted views of fields and woods. Rural Maine, in repose, cooling down toward evening. We gave the silence our quiet attention. The moment lacked form yet seemed perfectly structured. What ceremony had we joined? Were we so at peace within ourselves then that we could participate? Was this to be our new life? No, the moment didn’t last. Like an open door ignored we turned away and fled that quiet moment. We exchanged a profound silence for the city’s noise and chaos. That busy life then compressed thirty years into another moment. Is it a trick of the mind that decades compress and moments expand when later recalled? Now what I remember from life is that moment’s offer of infinity, declined.
There is fresh snow on the ground. An inch or so. More to come, maybe a couple of inches. That’s the weather, but there are other things going on. In my head, in the country and in the world. Things other than the Corona Virus and human reaction to it. Here we had an attempted insurrection by followers of the outgoing president. Not too notable an event elsewhere in the hemisphere but out of character for us. I saw a video last night, a look at George Orwell’s book review in 1940 of Mein Kampf by Adolph Hitler. Credit to Acts17Apologetics for some new insite. For readers with a USA education I will point out that Hitler was a major player in WW2. As an aside, Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás, a philosopher, said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. The chorused response from those educated in the USA is, “EH?” so history gets repeated. Like the tide, human nature will prevail. What Orwell said, as the second world war was beginning, was that fighting was something humans were programmed to do. Sex, Eating and defecating and …. killing one another periodically. All more than just habits. Ingrained nature. The pressure to fight in a society can be channeled positively and achieve laudable social goals. It can also be turned by a wana bee dictator into a tool for insurrection. The USA’s recent history being the parallel made with the rise of Hitler. Adolph was smarter than Trump. A block of moldy cheese is smarter than Trump. A blessing, in the short term. Long term, only a pause, a breather. So, humans need conflict. A society that’s achieved equity and plenty and peace will bear a generation of angry young men intent on burning it all down. Why? They are angry!, what are they angry about!?, listen to AM radio at two in the morning in north America and you’ll hear all the talking points. Its “Them” and what they are trying to do to “Us”. The details are just garnish. The point is to express that anger. To put on weird outfits, leather and sequins and horns on your head and invade the temple (of democracy). What is it with the horns? On that day, the 6th of January, one iconic photo of the rabble in the rotunda was of a guy wearing horns. Everyone in the country put their reaction on their page one. WWD, Woman’s Wear Daily, the newspaper for New York’s garment industry reacted. I saw the reference and thought at first they’d be commenting on what the rioter’s were wearing. Like the voice at a fashion show as a model walks the runway. “And here’s Bob!, he’s ready to overthrow the government! and, he’ll do it in style!” “Bob’ll surely “stop the steal” in matching camo pants and vest!” He’s looking sharp with pointed horns so out of his way you leftist elites!”. But no, it was just them being counted, their voice saying, “isn’t it awful?, yes it was, and is. Corona virus is awful and nuclear weapons are awful and numb humans….also awful. there doesn’t have to be an outcome that’s good for humanity. I suspect there isn’t. Mother Earth will not let one of her offspring continue to foul the nest. God loves us but then we invented that deity, so he would wouldn’t he?. Actually, we were created by Gaia, Pachamama, the Earth Mother. She is very much a pragmatic parent. She will only forgive so much and we are trying her patience. Am I anthropomorphizing? seeing human qualities in the nonhuman? Maybe. Or it might be as simple as cause and effect. Push against the thing long enough and it eventually falls over.
Isolated in this bag of saline water I imagine I am me. He is me and we are he….or are we? I can’t answer that. Neither can another. They have those questions of themselves to answer first. They’ll never get to me. Maybe we’ll meet and compare notes on the other side. If our essence loosened from this reality floats to another existence and if souls gather there like wildebeest’s at a watering hole. Is it whatever we believe that’ll happen? Believe you and Jesus will be chums for eternity and you will be? Believe the devil will torture you forever and he will? Be careful what you imagine. The pessimist could well imagine that our time and place (Covid, Trump, impending doom TBA) is hell as they conceived it in their last life. The Christians consider the reward for obeying their rules an eternity with God. Muslims who die defending the faith get eternity with 72 virgins who are perpetually so (an important caveat). Buddhists believe that the end reward, the big pay off, the megabucks on the wheel of reincarnation….is to not exist. I sort of like that. It’s very clean. In my limited knowledge of the way of the enlightened one, shedding everything takes many lives to accomplish. I hope I don’t hoard spiritually as I do with cool electronic parts. Ostensibly I am an atheist and don’t believe anything. What sort of after life would an atheist imagine? I should know what atheists expect, me being a fifth order enlightened anointed high priest of Atheism (Reformed, Eastern Rites). Is a religion real if it was just invented minutes ago?, on the fly? and if it has only one believer? As a Christian once told me with vigor….”You MUST believe something!” perhaps they were right. Sadly, I haven’t settled on anything specific, yet. Maybe I’m not alone in this indecision. Maybe the path leading up to the pearly gates is lined with card tables covered in brochures and books. Old testament guys, long white beards, long white robes, standing behind the tables smile beatifically. “Adopt our faith and a blissful eternity is guaranteed” I’d pass. I’d go right up to those gates made of pearl and look Saint Pete in the eye and say…..” ah.., um, ah, the dog ate my homework” so much pressure!, that’d be all I could come up with. Well, it didn’t work in second grade and it’s a non starter at heaven’s gate. Instead, like a pinball knocked dead center by a flipper I’d fly off & into the void. After some refurbishing and buffing up, my soul would be reformatted and I’d be inserted into an infant’s grey matter. Then the whole friggin thing would start again, I’d remember nothing. One step forward two steps back. That’s life all over again.
So quiet without tweeting from the demented twit. To wit the twit flew south a bit, much like a tit, and now is heard no more. I doubt it’ll stay this quiet but I’ll take it as it comes. The woods around me are quiet too. There is the occasional burst from an AK-47 in the woods. A sound that travels. Must be someone playing freedom fighter. For me that sort of ammunition is too expensive. My 10-22 is too economical to defend freedom and I’m too soft hearted to kill squirrels. The Kalashnikov burst is often directed upward, Lebanese fireworks – I believe its called, is much like “burning” rubber. A particularly gringo expression of “joie la vivre”. Charred tire lingers on the asphalt roads for years. With so few walls for taggers (graffiti artists) in the boonies roads serve as canvas. Not an inexpensive medium, tire rubber, for self expression. A combination of performance, dance, sound, a bit of adrenalin as your vehicle dances that Cajun rhythm just like a Willy’s in four wheel drive. Maybe it is a Willys in four wheel drive, I wouldn’t know – I never hear this art as its created. Only later do I see the long swirls and delicate loops of burnt Goodyear or Michelin. They stretch for dozens of feet on the ridge road or route 17 beside Chickawaki pond. Must give a warm feeling to the burned rubber artist when he sees it years later. A lingering testament to his youth and his father’s money. His father’s money financed the lingering art exhibition, buying the tires. I haven’t driven over it as much of late. I stay in. Partly the winter and partly the virus. The old habit of going to Walmart to buy a single toothpick or some such excuse doesn’t cut it now. Passing the golden arches and passing up their greasy burgers (marked down, buy two get a third free!) has lost me eighty-five pounds. I know, dear reader, how is that possible … you only weighing 85 pounds! Another example of this varied and eclectic universe we live in. Like just the other day, my daughter said….”Dad, why don’t you get excited about Atlantis? why do you prefer Doggerland?”. “Because”, I replied, looking over my bifocals father like, “Doggerland has evidence of human habitation but no mythology while Atlantis is only myth, no evidence”. Myth, That song by Donovan for instance. “Way down below the ocean is where I long to be, she may be…..” and so on. I like the song, a lot. I sing it in my head when I should be paying attention. The evidence of people living in what is now sea bottom is dredged up spear fishing points and stone tools. The myth of Atlantis often includes high technology, a mythical advanced civilization. They must have been advanced to hide their abandoned stuff so well. Our old refrigerators and cars will be hard for the people of 50,000 years hence to not trip over. But myth and fantasy are being preferred these days to science. Entertain me! the youth demand, its what they’ve been accustomed to. Reality isn’t enough. To me however, it is fascinating to “know” that over a thousand generations of people lived in Doggerland. The now flooded land between England and Holland. And that the Rhine and the Themes rivers were but tributories of an un named river that flowed south. Its delta has been the source of much of the sand dredged up to cement modern England. “Flat earth” she said, “what about that? Have an open mind, don’t shut out ideas”, she said. I just joined the AAAS I told her. The American Association for the Advancement of Science. I feel bound to follow evidence and logic and the rational. Hearing critical questioning taken to absurd extremes reminds me of how important scientific method is. The flat Earth of Terry Pratchett is fine but its not reality. I can relate to science fiction because I grew up on it. The sci fi I devoured as a youth was called “hard” sci fi. That is hardware, technologies of the future, rather than fantasy, wizards and warlocks. Elan Musk builds a space ship in Texas. It looks like the ships on the covers of pulp sci fi from the 50’s….but it does fly, and hover. I expect it will make it to Mars some day. To go from an artist’s fantasy of cover art to a machine that delivers is engineering which is based on science. Fantasy isn’t enough. Not to hurt anyone’s feelings, but fantasy alone, is the lazy way of traveling to Mars.
A subtext is creeping into 2020’s creepy narrative. Aliens. There were aliens from south of the border of course. I don’t mean them. They were deported or concentrated in camps. Not to be confused with concentration camps. The aliens who are inserting themselves into the already weird story of 2020 are of the outer space persuasion. Three instances invited my attention. One was the return of a radio signal that seems to be coming from Alpha Centori. “seems” is the highlighted word in this. Ambient, or local spurious (unintentional) signals abound on the Earth. For every intended emission there are a dozen strays that escape into the wild. The federal government’s FCC puts an upper limit on what a product can emit. Without limits, your computer or smart refrigerator might interfere with passing aircraft. The radio astronomers at the Park’s radio dish in Australia are well aware of this. The first thing they suspect when ET phones them is a computer on a ranch ten miles away. Practically all their work is filtering out these “ambient” signals. But, on several occasions since 2016 a very clean, coherent, carrier wave at 802.02 MegaHertz was detected. That it was coherent, which is to say unmodulated, means that no video or audio or data was impressed upon it. It did drift slightly in frequency but not in the way a source moving periodically would. Not as a planet bound emitter would. But when the giant dish was pointed at Alpha Centori the signal was heard and when the dish looked away the signal disappeared. Not evidence but rather a strong indication of something. As Carl Sagan said, “Extraordinary claims require extradentary evidence. As I recall he also said, “Get that fuking cross out of my face” He was an atheist to the end, or did his best to remain an unbeliever. Somebody wanted to save him from the fires of hell and aggressively tried forcing a deathbed conversion. I can’t help but wonder, is he sitting an eternity in the waiting room outside God’s office?, his paperwork now totally fouled up….
But, back on theme…
Then there is the latest domestic terror bomber, the one who blew himself up last Christmas day in Nashville. Headlines listing progress in investigating so and so’s motivation mentioned Lizard People, ie belief in. The FBI is investigating whither or not so and so believed there were lizards posing as humans. Its good that the FBI had a hundred agents digging for clues and motives…but I wonder if a belief in lizard people is actionable info. What do you do when you establish that he did believe lizards were walking around down town Nashville? Would you go to that insurance company to interview the gecko who shills for them? Would he be willing to “out” members of his genus? his full name, a bit pretentious for such a small animal is, “Phelsuma madagascariensis grandis” I’ll bet when he takes on human guise he goes by the moniker, Bob Smith. “Hi there, my names Bob…Bob Smith, say, would you be interested in saving money on car or motorcycle insurance?”
With Covid deaths in the USA getting close to the half million mark we were rightly focused on the Covid relief bill in congress. A life and death struggle with political consequence, it affected me deeply, in my wallet. As I write this (late 2020) it looks like I’ll get $600 and not $2000. Mitch McConnell called the higher number, “welfare for the rich” He’s not talking about me. Trump must have lifted another veil because he remarked that the bill he vetoed had so many provisions. They always have provisions, riders, add-ons. Like the last bus out of town in a third world country it is jammed full and even the roof’s overloaded with riders. Being sensitive to his base Trump focused on the provision in the defense bill renaming military bases. The names to be changed are those of Confederate generals. I have several times in my life sworn to not attempt the violent overthrow of the US government. So…WTF? Honor those who did? But anyway, Trump sensed there was traction in opposing the renaming. He said nothing about another little rider in the bill. The one that would blow the lid on space aliens. It gives the DNI (Director of National Intelligence) six months to report on what the government’s various branches know regarding UAP which is to say UFOs. Biden, I expect will be too busy to back burner that. And, maybe….the aliens know a lot about viruses. I pray they do and will help us. Oh, atheists can pray too….and just as effectively. There is even a cute secular name for it….manifesting. Manifest Destiny, a contradiction or a plan?
The below written in November of 2020. Seems long ago, but its only a couple of months…
I awoke from a dream state, as I often do, retaining a couple of dreamy images. A mulligan stew of ideas in my mind had began to form a story. It’s elements were from the news. The millions of Mink in Denmark being killed. The young environmental activist, Greta Thunberg being ignored. An essay in the NYT about civilization collapse, how and why. The firing of Michael Kuperberg, executive director of the U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program. The concept of Gaia, the Earth’s biosphere as a single organism. And last, but never least, Covid. How are all these elements connected? What story do they inform? The mink first. These cute animals, raised by the millions to make garments, caught Covid from humans. It swept through their ranks quickly, Being farmed in crowded conditions, they are to this virus like stacked, dry, cord wood is to fire. The cold logic of epidemiology says they must all be destroyed. This is because the virus mutated as it swept through the mink. It then jumped back to humans. The risk that a mutant strain might be more virulent to us is too great. Greta Thunberg is a young Swede known for her environmental activism. She organized a world wide “student strike for the environment”. Vladimir Putin, the Russian, was patronizing…Saying, she just didn’t understand the complexities. The media always mention that Greta has Asperger syndrome and Selective mutism. This possibly to explain her activism. Her insistence that the environment is in crisis. A crisis caused by human civilization. Trump was patronizing to her as well. The Christian bible says a child shall lead them…into a peaceable kingdom. It doesn’t say “they” will follow, or even listen. Then there is Gaia, the Earth, the huge organism we humans are only a tiny part of. We have an immune system reacting to Covid virus, Earth too has ways of dealing with irritants. Gaia regulates the oxygen level in the atmosphere with fire and regulates the population of animal species with viruses. Crowding and overpopulating, spewing poison into Gaia’s lungs is, for her, an irritant. For a billion plus years Gaia has regulated life with viruses, she still does. Then there is civilization and its history of collapse. It’s happened many times. Collapse, like war, is a major theme in history. What causes it? Are we now facing that event too? The consensus of several scholars is that complexity is the double edged sword in human civilization. In both its rise and fall. Bring lots of people into cities from the farms and you need supply chains. Field to table was a couple hundred feet in the beginning. For us it’s grown to many thousand miles. Supply chains are simple at first but grow longer and more involved as civilization grows. The house of cards analogy fits here. Oh, we’re good. Our engineering is impressive. Human ingenuity pushes the house higher and higher. The cards rest solidly atop each other, up and up…until it all crashes down. A breeze, a bump, a virus. Our engineered tower falls. It wasn’t designed for the final insult. That ace dealt from the bottom of the deck. Nature has many cards up her sleeve. It’s her game. By her rules. What’s the story? Something by Don Delillo maybe. He wrote the novel, “White Noise”. His style would fit the elements and crazy arc this “civilization” seems to be following. Can I extract anything other than a comic dystopian novel from these elements? No, the setup is like a 50 ton locomotive on greased tracks going down hill at 50 MPH toward a cement wall. Add to that an engineer in the cab distracted by his cell phone, updating his Facebook page. This loco driver is putting the pedal to the metal, increasing the speed. And why not? It’s too late for the brakes. You demand a happy ending? OK, Gaia is better off, healthier, without eight billion humans!
Oak logs burned in the fire pit. In the sky geese flew toward Thomaston, south, toward the warmth. I did that once. Now I double hunker down. The virus and subzero wind chill my reasons. Geese fly but don’t wear masks. Not so far anyway. Next year? who knows. At the end of 2021 Geese might be wearing masks and I might fly south again. My gaze drops from the sky to the flames. I toast my palms over burning oak.
The tree guy left us with lots of oak. It seasoned naturally. It dried where it stood until he cut it. From a bucket twenty foot up he removed limbs and branches. His delicate ballet in the bare canopy dropped a chord’s worth of oak to the ground. I dragged logs up the drive. After I’d quit twitching I used my new electric chain saw. It did an impressive job – even on oak. A new axe and some effort split logs into sticks. Oak splits beautifully. It burns well too. The Cadillac of camp wood I suppose.
Just as I’ve let the hair on my head run riot, the trees on the family finca have had their way. Acorns and apples as nature intended cover the ground. Keeping the driveway and power line safe from falling timber prompted us to part with the $$. The tree person being worthy of his wages. Difficult to put a price on living pre electric for a week as we did in the spring just past.
In my imagination, I join the ancients around the fire, gathered for warmth. But it was more than warmth to them. More than cooking and heat treating materials they had access to. Stones split by fire becoming tools. Sharpened sticks hardened by flame. There was something intangible aswell. For them then as for me now there is a mystery in the flames. Something akin to the computer screen but more subtle. In Doggerland, that Atlantis of the north sea, they must have sat as I do and thought. Twenty-five thousand years ago they’d have thought about the tribal politics in their area. They might have wondered why the Gods had sent a new virus to decimate the people. Technology too had its place in their reverie. Those new spear points for fishing!, what will they think of next. Made of bone and barbed so the fish stays speared. Its all in the fire, their thoughts and mine.