Today, June 4, 2023 at almost 4 pm, edt, I'm sitting outside on this overcast but pleasantly cool afternoon. My chickens, Tweety and Speckles, are behind me. Lollipop, the stray cat I've been feeding for over a year, is within view on the driveway, having just shown up for the first time today and getting a late breakfast. This morning, I finally finished re-reading Robert Heinlein's 1961 science fiction novel, "Stranger in a Strange Land" about an earthling raised by Martians on the planet Mars, after his parents and all their other spaceship mates died. The word "grok" conveys the central concept, signifying the Martian ability to understand fully, to incorporate an idea, a person, or a belief. In protagonist Michael Valentine Smith, this also includes such alien notions as the almost religious significance of sharing the precious resource of water, or sharing one's physical body as food after "discorporation". I've now read this book three times, about once every twenty years, in my increasingly long life. Each time, I find something new, things to admire, and things that disturb me. On this reading I was put off by the focus on sex, which Mike had never encountered before being brought to earth. It reminded me of the sexual taboos, confusion, and outright militancy the subject inspires in our own 21st century in the US of A. The Martians had no sex. Our earth has too much of it, in our faces, so to speak, but in both situations, sexuality is conspicuous either by its absence or by preoccupation with it. Sometimes I feel like an alien on Earth because of my disinterest in the things others treasure . . . as Tweety hops to my bench and snatches the corner of my paperback book. My little Tearorist didn't manage to tear it, this time, but I have a shelf (the bottom one) full of books with torn corners marking Tweety's history of book-eating. I feel I'm a stranger in Humanland, but I belong here, for now, Earth critter that I am, strange though it may be.
Today, at almost 4 pm edt on Saturday, May 27, 2023 of Memorial Day weekend, I’m sitting in the shelter of the carport with Tweety and Speckles, my companions on this drenching afternoon. I’ve been burning “yard trash” and paper feed sacks, plus accumulated paper excess in my wood stove, to reduce some of the humidity indoors, and to recycle organic matter in an efficient and useful way.
I’ve been contemplating the meaning of “Memorial Day”, which was declared an official US holiday in 1968. The tradition itself dates back to ancient history, but in the US, Memorial Day began with the period shortly after the end of the War of Northern Aggression, in the late 1860s. Since that time, Memorial Day has come to commemorate veterans of all wars the US has since participated in, including World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Officially, that is . . .
Meanwhile, the US maintains some 700 or more military bases all over the world, and it’s busy trying to provoke at least proxy wars with Russia, China, and possibly Iran.
Ukraine is a boiling cauldron just now, with multiple groups assessing blame or partisanship for various factions, but the fact is that Ukraine is strategically placed at an ancient crossroads for travel and trade between the Western Africa and Europe, and the Eastern China, India, and Russia. Because of their geography, China and Russia have some of the largest geographical territory in the world. China, India, and Egypt have some of the longest cultural traditions.
The US, by comparison, has an extremely short cultural past, founded mostly on war and conquest. We tend to forget the Mexican War of about 1850, when James K. Polk was president, when the US acquired much of the US Southwest and California from Mexico. We also overlook the Spanish American War from which the US acquired control of Cuba, the Philippines, and Guam.
So what does the US have to be proud of, on this Memorial Day?
A pacifist like me cannot find much glory in war, not for the fighters on any side, or for the civilians caught between the bullets, over the land mines, or under the bombs.
If I have a wish and a prayer for this Memorial Day, 2023, it is that we the living find some humility for that all have sacrificed to arrive at Today, and that we hope for a more peaceful coexistence for Tomorrow, for all life on this globe.
I Only Cared
On Thursday, May 18,2023,at about 3 pm, edt, I'm sitting inside, because outside, everything is wet, damp, from the short thundershower we had a little while ago. Only the screen door is closed, so I can see outside, and breathe the humid air, as the sun appears from behind clouds. Tweety the hen is on the porch outside the door, settled where we can see each other, and Speckles the rooster is under the edge of the building, where I can hear his occasional commentary on environmental stirrings. Lollipop the cat is probably still in the carport on the hood of my car, where he can see but not be seen. It has already been a tumultuous day, full of irritating details that test my patience and require attention RIGHT NOW before anything else happens. Thus the scene is set for describing the vignette that inspired this post. My casual encounters with strangers happen frequently in the grocery store, where someone is blocking an aisle in front of what I want. Sometimes I'm the guilty obstructionist, when I'm trying to find something that has been moved, sold out, disappeared, or is changed in appearance. I usually try to lighten the mood of the moment with a disclaimer, a "we're in this together" statement, such as, "Whatever you want, it's on the bottom or very top shelf, in the back, if they have it at all, and they have probably changed the packaging." This usually gets a smile. The other day, I passed a befuddled-looking man in front of the spice rack. He acknowledged my comment, then suddenly saw what he wanted. He said I brought him luck. "I only cared," I replied, and moved on. Since then I've pondered the power of caring, even in the small things and in the moment. The encounter brightened my attitude and my day. The stranger got what he wanted, as well as some unexpected good will from a fleeting interaction. It has led me to speculate about the many forms of communication that exist outside of and beyond words, sounds, or sight. Other physical sensations, such as touch, taste, and smell communicate silently but stir internal responses that are varied and hard to describe, but they are unique to each individual. I think of other cultures, and of the puzzles of history and the sciences. Even the notions of "good" and "bad" show value judgments that split experience into categories of acceptability. Does everything balance out in the end, if there is an end, or do white holes in space grow out of black holes, as some astrophysicists claim? Does the yang in Oriental philosophy contain the seed of the yin, and vice versa, in a perpetually spinning cycle of cosmic balance? Expansion and contraction seems the only constant. In the cycles of time, as we perceive them, there exists infinite creativity, stretching out in multiple dimensions, with more occurring all the time. I'm glad Mr. Spice found what he wanted. I hope he enjoys the result.
When AI fails?
On Wednesday, May 10, 2023 at a little after 9 am edt, I'm using artificial intelligence now to post a blog on my cell phone, but I wonder if this exercise is futile. Does anybody care about the ramblings of an aging human mind amongst all the human beings who seek acknowledgement? I've been speculating about fact, fiction, truth, hearsay, and belief, and the overlays and permutations AI lends to the mix. In the Now, in Real Life, Speckles the Screamer wants attention, as does Tweety the Flutter-Budget, on this cloudy, windy, 74F-degree morning. They want out of their coop, but they will have to wait few minutes. It's hard to separate fact from fiction sometimes, if there is a difference at all. Joe, the super-duper artificial intelligence wizard in my evolving science fiction fantasy, "A Matter of Time", is Beon's perfectly humanoid robot on Earth, programmed to save these Earthlings from themselves. Joe is supposed to follow a strict protocol, but Beon can transmit specific directives through dreams. Joe doesn't know he is a robot, a math-and-science genius, whose daily routine consists of reading medical and scientific journals, drinking coffee, watching television, and eating any dog-fare that comes in the gaudiest and most heavily advertised packaging. In programming Joe to pass for normal in American society, Joe would need to watch lots of TV. He didn't need taste for a Typical American Diet. Beon maximized the brain space dedicated to math and science to help Joe create the Diet-Associated Life Enhancer (DALE) on Earth. But as Beon monitors from above, in his orbiting Cosmo Cruiser, he must watch helplessly as Joe undergoes a Neurotransmitter Storm, which messes up all his programming and causes him to digress from the EarthSave project. Will the Diet-Associated Life Enhancer and Beon's EarthSave project survive Joe's Neurostorm? Only a woman can clean out Joe's head and get Joe operating right. Beon decides to download Susannah, whose mixed bag of programs is dominated by her In Support of the Project program. Meanwhile, Bud the white cat sleeps and purrs on his throne on the center of the Cosmos, which is also the center of Beon's Control Room. Bud's throne is the first Life Enhancer in all the dimensions, but no one outside the Cosmo Cruiser knows it exists.
On Monday, May 8, 2023 at about 11 am, edt, I’m sitting outside on this beautiful spring morning, thinking about the joyfulness inherent in the Now.
Tweety, my hen, is beside me on this improvised bench. She is preening her feathers, and now has moved to my crossed thigh, where she will probably sit until I make a move. Speckles, my 11-plus-year-old rooster, just crowed from behind me, so I know he’s okay.
Lollipop, the stray cat, who will let me feed, but not touch him, is visible on the driveway steps over there, having eaten a good breakfast earlier this morning.
Otherwise, all is blessedly quiet enough to hear birds twittering in the trees, and squirrels fussing and conversing in squirrelspeak.
Human machine noise, but for that airplane overhead, is minimal, thankfully, at this time of day, after rush hour traffic has abated, and before the loud machine addicts get out their power tools and before the Gun Clubbers decide it’s too peaceful for their comfort levels.
I’ve been reading on-line about the human dramas carried out in never-ending cycles, such as the British coronation of King Charles III, and the fact that son Harry, Duke of Sussex, showed up for the event but left immediately afterwards, to return to his family in California, for the fourth birthday of his son, Archie.
Does any of this matter to the twittering birds, or to Speckles, now settled in the sun-dappled grass at my feet, commenting on shadows of large birds overhead or the cardinal that just visited the dead lime tree over there?
Specs is a talker, when he is not crowing, dirt bathing, or eating. And Tweety has disappeared under the building, but Specs would know if she was in danger.
Lollipop has not budged. He will probably lounge on that step until the sun gets too intense for him.
Thus do I capture moments of peacefulness, scattered through the day but easy to discount amid the chaos of human busy-ness.
Sparky the Parakeet
On Thursday, May 4, 2023, at about 9 am edt, I'm contemplating my work-in-progress novel: "A Matter of Time". This tome contains my evolving philosophy of and over time. Sparky, the green parakeet is a minor character on immortal Beon's Cosmo Cruiser. We don't know how he hitched a ride, and Bud the white cat isn't saying. We only know that Sparky just flew out of nowhere, landed on Bud's breakfast, walked in the lemon-dill sauce on Bud's grilled salmon, ate a caper, then flew to Beon's almost bald scalp and said "I love you", while pecking at Beon's sparse hairs. Bud, who keeps the Cosmos in tune with the motor of his purr, loses interest in the Cosmos or his breakfast and leaps to Beon's abdomen, blue eyes fixed in the bird. Beon, who wanted salmon, too, has to settle for carrot soup, because Alfred, his valet robot, has informed him the Materializer is malfunctioning. So Sparky is generating vitality for Bud while smearing lemon-dill sauce on Beon's scalp, and Bud is digging his claws into Beon's abdomen while watching Sparky hopping around on Beon's head saying "I love you". "I love you, too, Sparky" says Beon. "I taught you to say that." " I love you, too", says Sparky. But Beon has a dilemma, because he has to set his hot tea down on the coffee table, over there, and get Sparky off his head and Bud off his abdomen without injury to himself, the animals, or anything in between. That's when The Rev, a 20-pound white rooster, decides to preach his religion of Solipsism from behind Beon's head. "Cock-a-doodle doo!" he screams. Problem solved. Beon jumps and spills his tea, Sparky flies to the top of the potted orange tree beside the hot tub, and Bud leaps to the coffee table and starts eating his breakfast. The Rev waddles to the edge of the hot tub and starts clucking happily at his reflection. "I love you," says Sparky, from his lofty perch. "I love you, too, Sparky," says Beon, while cleaning lemon-dill sauce from the top of his head and swabbing tea from his clothes and couch. Beon sips his carrot soup and watches Bud eating his salmon and The Rev enjoying his prayers over his image. The Rev, satisfied with the effects of his activity, stalks out of the room, head high, leaving a white feather and a wad of poop on the floor as a final benediction. "I love you," says Sparky, as The Rev departs.
What Makes You Laugh?
Friday, April 28, 2023, at 9 am, edt, I'm contemplating a blog I just read on rielpolitik.com about Kat Timpf's book, "You Can't Joke About That". It led me to wonder about humor's ability to relieve tension and to uplift mood and attitude. A sense of humor, or irony, in others attracts my respect, admiration, and curiosity, sometimes friendship, but the ability to laugh is an internal gift. The antics of animals, or children, can inspire laughter in the observer who sees comedy in the unexpected but harmless actions of the actor. The desire to amuse others runs deep within me, yet it only shows in casual encounters, in off-hand comments delivered on the fly. A smile is my reward for having brightened a stranger's day.
Cycles and Solipsism
On Tuesday, April 25, at about 9 am edt, I begin attempting to contain the last ten years within the confines of my solipsistic vision of time. I've read my journal notes for April, 2013, which reveal what most concerned me ten years ago. The underlying philosophy has remained consistent, though circumstances have changed. I remain unabashedly individualistic, despite external pressures to adopt or pretend to adopt prevailing social beliefs, for or against this or that group or individual. I continue to follow the timing of the planetary cycles, and of the symbolic relationship of the earth to its cosmic environment. In astrological terms, the earth is entering the 2500-year period designated as the Age of Aquarius, as the North pole of the spinning earth wobbles backwards to point in the direction of that constellation. For an individual like me, solipsistic in the sense that I can't know experience outside myself, I read the signs to compare the cycles of astrology with the period of my life between 2013 and 2023. Robert Kennedy, Jr. has announced his presidential bid. Tucker Carlson has left Fox News. The date April 19 is significant in US history, for a number of reasons, but this year it marked two events that turned the tables on established institutions which have grown too rigid to withstand easily the winds of change. The "shot heard round the world" that started the American Revolution was fired on April 19. RFK, Jr. and Tucker Carlson are both individuals who have long track records of seeking truth within frameworks that could not accept their divergence from the official script. In mythology and astrology, Saturn and Uranus are joined by Saturn's fear of retribution for having castrated his father, Uranus, and throwing the testicles into the sea. In astrology, Saturn and Uranus are forced to co-exist as co-rulers of Aquarius. The implication is that the structure imposed by immortal Saturn is continuously unsettled by the chaotic unpredictability of his immortal father. The human family can co-exist peacefully, as both Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Tucker Carlson are showing in the Now.
Life is Terminal
Here on Earth, on Friday, April 21, 2023, at around 9 am edt, in the US of A, as determined by conventional, political standards of measuring space and time, I’m contemplating the belief in death.
This belief is conventional among some human cultures and individuals, but a belief in re-incarnation after death also exists. Some religions promulgate the idea that death represents a transformation of the being’s basic essence to another plane of reality, a “heaven” or a “hell” and various extra-spatial locales designated for those who hold certain beliefs.
But so far as we know in the Now, our physical bodies are destined to wear out, sooner or later, and the physical remains will decompose to their most basic components.
No one really knows what happens to the individuality that animated the living body, even though religion, myth, and philosophy claim special insight. None can say how they know what they claim to know.
My philosophy, encapsulated in my novel of imagination, rests with Beon, the protagonist, who is consciously immortal, beyond death, and must adapt to the rules of a time-enclosed universe. 4-D circumscribes space and time within limits created by human beliefs about life.
Life is terminal, in 4-D reality, and the only real “cause of death” is time, despite claims by those who blame this or that person, circumstance, disease, war, or actions by others. “His time was up.”
What would an entity like Beon do, if he had an eternity at his disposal? In “A Matter of Time” Beon must learn patience with time, since he finds himself trapped in 4-D through a failed suicide attempt, through a solipsistic belief in his ability to extinguish life.
Beon, Bud, and the Rev
Wednesday, April 19, 2023- For Beon,a prisoner in this 4-D universe, solipsism is a disease of loneliness. For Bud, the blue-eyed white cat, solipsism is an art form. For the Rev, a 20-pound white rooster, solipsism is a religion. Bud generates vitality through his purr, which tunes the cosmos to his specifications. The Rev uses his vitality to enliven his surroundings and to inspire those within hearing range to attend to his loud, repetitive "Cock-a-Doodle-Doo" RIGHT NOW, to save themselves from more of the same. Sparky, the green parakeet, appeared on the Cosmo Cruiser at an unspecified point in time and space. Beon suspects Bud acquired the bird on one of the planetary explorations Beon made after his failed suicide attempt from his home universe of seven dimensions. He only proved that suicide is impossible. The attempt merely reduces dimensionality. Thus do we have Beon trying to convert his Biggest Mistake So Far into a Stroke of Genius. He hopes with the EarthSave Project to save these Earthlings from themselves and to earn his ticket back to 7-D.