Category Archives: Philosophy

The Problem with Immortality

Several people have stated over the years that man’s biggest problem is overpopulation.  These are usually people who have propagated and have adult progeny who have also propagated.  I don’t believe they were volunteering to be euthanized themselves, so the obvious question becomes one of who gets chosen to solve the overpopulation problem.

As I move through time and reach official “retirement” age, my perspective has changed.  I see the uncomfortable dilemma of feeling superfluous on the planet, reinforced by a youth culture that obviously or covertly resents the Baby Boomers for having robbed the universal till to secure comfortable retirements for themselves.

If the world is overpopulated, then war, disease, and famine work to right the scales.  If the mystics and other seers are right, there are many dimensions beyond the physical one, and many worlds being created all the time.  Even the astrophysicists say the universe is expanding.  Isaac Asimov anticipated overpopulation in his first sci-fi novel, Pebble in the Sky.  In that futuristic book, entire galaxies had been colonized, and there was mandatory euthanasia on Earth at age 60.  Other sci-fi novels present similar scenarios

It appears death is necessary in physical reality, to make room for new life.  If everyone were physically immortal, and lacking room to expand, the Earth would become crowded with humanity, as some claim has already happened.  Longevity is blamed, along with other factors.

The dilemma of immortality—or longevity—becomes one of what to do about overcrowding?  Presuming people continue to be born, a race of immortal beings that requires physical space must live somewhere.  Thus do the sci-fi novels delve into colonizing other places or, as in Pebble, making euthanasia mandatory.

When animal populations grow too large for their habitats, and if they can’t move, self-correcting mechanisms serve to reduce the population.  In human history, wars, disease, famine, infertility, homosexuality, abortion, infanticide, human sacrifice, expulsion, and even cannibalism have served that purpose.

Few would deny that Americans are the most wasteful people on the planet.  Not only is “consumerism” encouraged, but it is a source of pride for many.  It comes at a huge cost, though, as we must live in the garbage dump we are creating.  If overpopulation is the source of our problems–leading to war, pestilence, and all the other natural and unnatural mechanisms used to lighten the planet’s human load—then it makes social and personal sense to curb excess and waste.

My minimalist lifestyle represents a symbolic effort to curb my own excesses.  I chose not to have children, for instance.  I didn’t want children dependent on me, but I also recognized there are plenty of other people propagating, so my contribution in that sphere was unnecessary.

As I move through time, towards the age of superfluousness, and even towards a time of consuming more than I produce–along with my Baby Boomer cohort–I have to wonder if it becomes my social responsibility to get out of the way.  The growing support for physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia seems motivated in part by the perceived burdensomeness of the elderly.  The alternative, for those who still have some living to do, would naturally be to remain “productive,” useful, and to continue contributing in some way to society.

There is no cure for death, in the time-space construct we have chosen.  There is hope for healthy and happy longevity, one in which age does bring wisdom, grace, depth, and understanding—valuable commodities that money can’t buy.

 

 

Where There Is Love . . .

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Above:  Chicks Toozie and Speckles dirt bathing, January, 2012

I re-read The Four Agreements, (Don Miguel Ruiz, 1997) over the weekend.  This is one of many spiritual/self-help/philosophy books that I enjoy reading from time to time.  They remind me that all is not what it seems.

The Four Agreements is short and seemingly simple, yet it reinforces concepts I’ve read in other places, albeit in different words.  Ruiz begins by claiming we all live in dream worlds, both individual and planetary dreams.  He relates this to the Indian (Hindu, Buddhist, and others) concept of “maya,” or “illusion.”  He says our planetary dream is a nightmare based on fear.

The remainder of the book describes “four agreements” a person can make to break the grip of fear and create a heaven instead of hell on earth.  These are, “Be impeccable in your word; Don’t take anything personally; Don’t make assumptions; and Always do your best.”

Ruiz cites the “nagual,” which is defined as a person in MesoAmerican culture who is a ‘sorcerer,” who can change shapes.  It also refers to the great unknown, beyond words or description.  Carlos Castaneda also made reference to the “nagual” in the person of his Yaqui Indian mentor in his series of books about don Juan and his teachings. (

Having read widely and extensively about spiritual teachings over the centuries and across cultures, I find a commonality that affirms we are all spiritual beings, although the paths to understanding may be different.  The Tao of Physics (Fritjof Capra, 1975) relates Oriental mystical tradition to modern quantum physics.  Here, time and space are perceived as relative and subservient to the cosmic “qi,” or essence of everything.  Seth, in the Jane Roberts series of channeled books, corroborates this idea and goes beyond it, saying we are limited only by our beliefs.  He emphasizes we create our own realities and that “the point of power is in the present.”

All seem to agree that we change the world by changing ourselves and our personal beliefs.

Ruiz’ claim that the world is ruled by fear struck home.  As I grow older and experience personal health problems, I’ve had to confront head-on a belief system that humbles and challenges me.  It tempts me to give in to fear.  It comes from outside but it also results from beliefs I took on, maybe by osmosis, or by conditioning, as Ruiz asserts.  Everything from advertising, which exploits fear and insecurity to sell products, to media, which uses fear to promote sensationalist agendas, to religion, which uses fear to subdue believers, is based on the notion that this is, and always will be, a world of suffering.

Is it, and must it be that way, I ask myself.  The answer from my inner core and from all the spiritual guidance books I read, is an emphatic “no.”  We can choose to be happy, as Ruiz most recently affirmed.

I watched a red-winged blackbird bathing in the watering dish outside my window yesterday.  As he splashed around, flinging sparkling droplets in a wide arc, I had to smile and admire him for his ability to find such ecstasy in this simple act.  It’s easy for a technologically-gifted human to provide that opportunity, and it makes me happy to see him enjoy it.

I get similar gratification from watching my chickens take their dirt baths.  They roll and loll in the dirt, creating little nest-shaped holes in the ground.

How hard can happiness be, I wondered, when we have no fear?

I’ve heard it said that “Where there is love, there is no fear.”  Google attributes this to John 4:18 in the Bible, specifically “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment . . . .”  I suspect this is not solely a Christian insight, as Ruiz also relates fear to punishment.

Then, I decided, once again, that it all comes down to love.  Even hate and fear are love turned upside down.

How to apply this understanding in a practical way remains a challenge for the “warrior” in the spiritual realm.

 

 

Freedom, Democracy, and Capitalism

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017—I’m a proponent of free market capitalism, in that I believe in free things, especially if they can be exchanged for money that helps pay the bills.  Chicken feathers are free, sort of, if you don’t count the cost of feeding and housing the chickens.  Chickens molt on a regular basis, and if their feathers are clean, they can be used in a variety of ways.

I wore this hat, with a Speckles feather, on a “bad hair day” last week, getting smiles and compliments everywhere I went.  At first, I didn’t understand why these strangers were smiling.  Once I caught on, I bragged about how Speckles is alive and well, clean and healthy, and produced this feather of his own free will.

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Pictured here is the same hat with a Squire feather, while the producer stands on his soapbox.  The mason jar contains yellow roses brought by dinner guests and wisteria blooms from the vine I’m training to block summer sun through the window (also free).  The other jar holds saved feathers from previous molts.

My little enterprise, which will never go public, has already produced two sales, the first to my banker, who bought feathers scattered in a plastic sleeve protector.  The second was a trade of a small bag of Squire feathers for a large carafe of saki.  A few more feathers are on sale at a local consignment shop.

Squire tolerates, if he doesn’t necessarily like, going visiting in the cat carrier.  My banker and bank staff fell in love with him.  Speckles might like visiting, too, but so far hasn’t had the opportunity.

My version of capitalism makes use of the wealth between my ears to create value from things other people take for granted.  Those who buy their chickens plucked and cut into pieces can’t be expected to appreciate the beauty of the feathers—individually and collectively—until they see them in different contexts.

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Those who disparage capitalism seem to refer to “corporate capitalism,” which exploits human capital to form a “corporate body” amalgam in economic slavery to the bottom line.  Here we have such monsters as “corporate welfare,” “supercapitalism,” the “global economy,” and eco-rape.  Corporate capitalism has a long history of emphasizing short-term profits over long-term costs.  Local, and now world-wide, environmental pollution, general vitality-depletion on the planet, and a world at war (or perpetually on the verge of it) are only a few of the long term costs generated by an industrial age gone bananas

And, by the way, the bananas, especially the popular Cavendish banana, are at risk, too.  I grow another variety of banana and had a bumper crop last year, despite two major hurricanes.  Another free market capitalist product, courtesy of freedom, democracy, and capitalism.

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The following comments come from my journal, ten years ago this month:

POWER ABUSE
Friday, March 2, 2007 – People who are raised or trained by power abusers don’t learn how to use power wisely.  Entrenched power abuse, as in the military or medicine, is considered normal for those in the systems.  The greatest ambition of the low man on the totem pole is to go from masochist to sadist, where he imagines he will respect himself more than he respects his bosses.

FREEDOM  AND RESPONSIBILITY
Saturday, March 3, 2007 – Right makes might.  It isn’t the other way around.    Self-sufficiency breeds freedom.  Taking responsibility for one’s own choices requires the willingness to accept and deal with consequences.  Criminals are soon entrapped in their own crimes, even if others never see.  A guilty man lives with his guilt and must face it, eventually.  His guilt lurks in the shadows, waiting for opportunities to right the wrong.  He can choose to restore balance consciously before he re-establishes it unconsciously through fear.
Thus did Adam learn the hard way that he couldn’t hide from God or his own guilty conscience.

HUMAN CAPITAL
Saturday, March 3, 2007 – Human capital is the most undervalued capital of all.  The social engineering messages—through laws, conventions, politics, media, entertainment and advertising–exploit this presumed advantage to everyone’s detriment.  Productivity increases when people enjoy their work enough to create a pleasant work environment.  This should be leadership’s top priority.  Pressure to perform, to grind an endless supply of boring and more boring, saps creativity, initiative, and ultimately, the economy.
When people wake up and realize we all bleed the same red blood, and the best way to live is to let live, we will begin to recognize the value of using our minds to work for instead of against us.  There is no mystique to psychiatry except self-knowledge.  My  life is my creation and no one can live it but me.  The best way to live it is to love it, in its many-faceted faces.
There is plenty of work to be done.  We have too many unproductive people, who want nothing more than to be fitted to the right job for them, and to earn enough money to support basic necessities and a few amenities.  More important, people need to be appreciated as human beings with human dignity and allowed the time and space to enjoy the fruits of their labors.
Everyone has a role to play.  A society that appreciates its human capital appreciates in value.  By fitting the job to the individual, rather than the other way around, everyone wins at relatively little cost to others.
Human capital is the only viable capital.  All other capital is derived from human desire and effort.  Once we place our values where they truly belong, with each individual, we can have a truly free, capitalistic, democracy.

What is Intelligence?

From my journal, seven years ago this month.  Some things don’t change (much).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010—I ran into M and his wife, K, at B&N yesterday, and we got to talking.  M talked a lot about intelligence, and I realized he is insecure about his, because he doesn’t (or didn’t) have a college degree.  He married his first wife because she did and quickly found degrees don’t assure intelligence or curiosity.

We speculated together, and I continued later to wonder what constitutes intelligence.  Others place too much emphasis on standardized tests, I believe, yet these represent the conventional guidelines.  College or advanced degrees constitute another measure.  If you go to a brand name school, all the better.

These don’t guarantee intelligence, though, as M. learned.  By others’ standards, I am intelligent, well educated, and do well enough on standardized tests, but I was not smart enough to reach people like my father.

M said engineers are linear thinkers.  His brother is an engineer and a perfect example.  Another term is “narrow-minded.”  Some people have claimed vocabulary determines intelligence.

Seth, in The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, claims fundamentalism has arisen in reaction to Darwinism, which presumes a random, chaotic, uncaring universe without rules.  But science, as we understand it, binds itself with the most rigid rules and produces people like my father, who deny the existence of anything outside the framework.

I believe intelligence is an attitude rather than a concrete quality.  Intelligence and curiosity may be synonymous, because curiosity gives flexibility, open-mindedness, inventiveness, and common sense.

We don’t measure common sense on IQ tests, but this may determine basic intelligence more than any other parameter.  Common sense finds food when hungry, shelter when cold or wet, safety when threatened.  This is survival of the fittest in action, and this is why the relatively hairless beast called man can survive in freezing weather.  It has little to do with beating other hairless beasts over the head with a club to steal their women and food.

In fact, the fittest and most likely to survive are those who can cooperate in groups, as the pack animals can join together to bring down their prey.

Intelligence is a relative term.   M claims marriage compatibility is based on intelligence, and that he and K are closely matched.

My parents were closely matched in intelligence, I believe, but no one appreciated my mother’s smarts because she didn’t have the degrees to prove it.  Yet she had an active mind, lots of common sense, and managed to keep my father’s interest all their married life.

My father, who made gods of science and intelligence, was one of the most narrow-minded people around.  He couldn’t converse on any topic other than those that interested him, or where he excelled, and these were few indeed.  He had little interest or curiosity about anything outside that box.

If you presume others are stupid, you will miss evidence that conflicts with your belief.  The “scientific method,” the presumption of cause and effect, must exclude more than it includes to have any validity at all, and then you are only proving the limitations of your experiment.  The germ theory of disease, for instance.

 

Following Formalin

 

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Introduction:  I wrote the following speculative fantasy in February, 2010, before I researched formalin on Wikipedia last week.  “Formalin,” I learned, is an aqueous form of formaldehyde, the simplest aldehyde in chemistry.  Formalin contains 40% formaldehyde, 10-12% stabilizer, usually methanol, and the rest water.  90% of formaldehyde occurs naturally, through decaying organic matter.  It does not build up in the environment because it is quickly broken down by sun and bacteria.

Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen, but used extensively in industry.  Major products are composite wood products, like laminates, particle board, hard plywoods, and fiberboard.  Its use in embalming is well known.  It is also used as a pesticide in animal foods, and as a disinfectant.

The primary effects of formaldehyde toxicity are respiratory, with burning eyes and nose.  It can worsen asthma.  Long-term exposure is linked to leukemia.

The formaldehyde toxicity associated with FEMA-provided trailers in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, was possibly caused by the high concentration of new particleboard in poorly ventilated trailers.

Industrialization has raised the amount and diversity of environmental toxins to immeasurable proportions.  From the particle board in kitchen cabinets to the PVC in water pipes, we are living in increasingly toxic conditions that we only worsen with our wasteful, consumerist culture.

While others worry about “climate change,” I’m more concerned with the growing generalized effects of environmental toxins, not only on humans but on all life.  Flint, Michigan is unlikely to be the only city in the US with poisonous water.  Industrialization has led to contamination of water everywhere, differing only in degree.  Even bottled water—and maybe especially bottled water—leaches hormone-altering plastic into the water.  Single-use packaging is particularly hard to justify.

“STRANDS OF CONSCIOUSNESS” FOLLOW FORMALIN

            February, 2010–Seth in Jane Roberts’ Seth series talks about “strands of consciousness” reaching out and entering others, but they are no more invasive than the leaves on a tree and depend on each other for survival—their very existence.   Every atom and molecule participates in a dynamic that can take it from rock to human to animal to insect to marsh grass, to every corner of the earth and dimensions unimaginable.  The atoms and molecules have a kind of memory of their histories, traces, and essences, that contribute to the greater understanding of the whole.

Man is not diminished but expanded by that, because he feels less alone and more connected to the larger dynamic.  We have created god in the human image, without recognizing god is as impersonal as a housefly, as placid as a mountain, as enduring as the galaxies, as strong and gentle as a spider’s web.

A dust particle in the air attests to god’s expansive creativity, and the dust will respond to the sun’s rays in its own way, as will the air molecules that hold it aloft.  All are expressions of the infinite creativity of god –All That Is, in Seth’s terms—the multi-sexual expression of pure energy.  The human division between life and death is arbitrary.  A “dead” human is teeming with other life forms, bacteria and the like, so it is only dead from a human perspective.  The other life that feed on it and helped it survive—as normal flora does—lives on and may not even notice the human identity’s passing.  Until the formaldehyde hits, that is.  Then all bets are off.

“But hey,” says the Cosmic Improv Group, that army of nags inside my imagination, which has lots of strands of consciousness invested in keeping me alive awhile, “Formaldehyde has feelings, too.”

“You betcha,” I reply.  “Not to demean formaldehyde, but I’d rather not party with it, if it’s all the same to you.  Let it play its role with other people.

“Formalin, actually,” say the medical experts.  Formaldehyde has carcinogens and toxins that are believed to be carcinogenic, as I recall, but don’t trust memory on this.  Formalin is supposed to be better on living bodies for preserving dead ones.

Go figure.  All this so the body won’t stink while people gawk over the plastic model of the deceased soul.  Be careful not to shed your tears on the make-up.

But the formalin goes into the ground, and into the sewer systems with the mortuary’s waste, and with the body’s interment.  People dry their tears and start fighting over the estate, and life moves on.

The formalin continues in new forms underground, freed from human bondage, and off to have new adventures.  Because it has the authorities’ seal of safety—was that the FDA, DEA, Cancer Society, Dow Chemicals, Pfizer?  Who decided formalin is less toxic than formaldehyde?  It is allowed free rein in the environment and can join its fellow non-toxins in joyful salute to the demise of mankind.

Now, that was not my strand of consciousness, certainly.  Why would I go off on a tangent about formalin?  Well, I was trying to understand formalin’s point of view, actually, to send a strand of consciousness to the probable life of a formalin molecule, and to enter its world.

Was that invasion?  No.  It was an appreciation for the greater unity that created my consciousness, the tools to make it conscious, and the formalin molecule, too.  I guarantee no formalin molecule is equipped to write about its own life, so who will do it if I don’t?

My experience is minimal, so my imagination limited.  The few anatomy cadaver dissections I participated in in medical school.  A month of a pathology elective, in my senior year, where I spent most of the time studying sliced placentas.

But hey, I’ve probably inhaled more formalin than most people, so its molecules have entered my body and communicated in the way only formalin can.  We just don’t know all the ways it can communicate with us.

 

 

 

GOD HELPS EVE BAKE APPLE PIE

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My back yard, Chatham County, Georgia.  Fig tree in winter.  Foggy day.  Live oak background.  Sago palm lower left.  Windmill palms lower center and right. Spanish moss on live oak, Georgia’s state tree. kco122716

From my journal, ten years ago today,Wednesday, December 27, 2006
(Why every would-be communicator should vent on paper)

            God:  I sure would love a piece of apple pie along about now.

            Eve:  What’s apple pie?

God:  Boy, are you dumb.  Apple pie is what you do if you want to earn your keep in the Garden of Eden.  This place requires upkeep, or haven’t you noticed?

Eve:  Okay.  I’m game.  Tell me what to do, and I’ll try to do it.

God:  Attagirl.  Now, go pick a bunch of apples.

Eve:  Oh, no you don’t.  I’m not falling for that trick again.  Picking those apples got Adam and me in a heap of trouble, remember?

God:  That was because I told you not to pick the apples.  Now, I’m telling you to pick some apples.  Times have changed.  Trust me.  I know what I’m doing.

Eve:  Well, OK, if you say so.

Eve picks some apples and follows directions for making apple pie.  First, she has to invent knives, baking pans, flour, sugar, an oven, and the other tools of apple pie construction. God looks on, giving helpful advice.  Adam has invented television and is busy watching sports.

Eve:  What spices should I use?

God cogitates.   God:  I like sage.

Eve:  OK.  Which one of these plants is sage?

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*

God:  It’s over there.  No, not there.  Over there.  Another step.  OK. Now lean over. Now touch it.  No! Not that one.  That’s the poison ivy.

Eve:  What’s poison ivy?

God:  You’ll see.  Just don’t scratch your hand.

Eve starts to itch.  She tries not to scratch.  The itch gets worse.

Eve:  Why not?

God:  Just don’t.

Eve:  I thought I was supposed to have free will.

God:  Fine.  Disobey me and see what happens.

Eve:  Got a better idea?

God:  Wash it off.

Eve:  With what?

God:  Soap.  Calamine lotion.

Eve:  What are they?

God:  You have to invent them.

Eve:  But my hand is itching now.
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*Sage, a perennial, by itself and with other herbs, here  monitored by the Squire-wire, aka S. Squire Rooster, Attorney for the Law of the Land .  Herbs pictured here, clockwise from lower left:  chives (perennial), sage, parsley (biennial), basil and purple basil (annual). Stevia, a perennial, is on edge of deck, flanked by milo plants (look like corn), grown wild from spilled chicken food.  Chickens love the green milo seeds.  Stevia, the natural sweetener now approved by the FDA for inclusion in soft drinks like Coca-cola and Pepsi, is easy easy easy to grow.  I combine stevia with chocolate mint and dry them together for great winter tea.  In the summer they make delicious iced tea, with no calories or caffeine.  kco122716

 

Daybreak

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S. Squire Rooster, Attorney, for the Law of the Land

No matter what happens on Election Day, the US has the opportunity to curb presidential power and to force Congress to become more accountable to the voter-citizen-taxpayers who have been increasingly disenfranchised.

There are a number of issues I would like to see on the 2017 Congressional plate.  At the top of my list is to abolish Daylight Savings Time.  This semi-annual Congressional jerk-around forces me to reset no less than eight clocks every six months.  The time change has caused me to be late for Easter brunch (for which I was never forgiven), to be late for my first day of work at a new job, and for a number of other social and professional blunders that I’ve repressed.

The guy pictured above could care less about Congressional mandates.  He starts his insistent crow the moment the sun peeks over the horizon.  Nor is the sun influenced by US law, so why is everyone who goes by clock time so easily manipulated by a bunch of lobbyists in Washington DC?

Wikipedia gives an exhaustive account of the history around the world  of Daylight Savings Time.  For our purposes, Congress made created a national standard in 1986-7 (PL 99-369) at the behest of Clorox and 7-Eleven lobbyists.  Both Idaho senators voted for it under the pretext that fast-food outlets would sell more french fries (made from Idaho potatoes).  Arizona is the only continental state that does not observe it.

Today, November 6, 2016, on this first day of freedom from the abhorrent DST, I make my semi-annual bid for doing something practical and achievable without causing anyone undue stress.

Where does your Congressperson stand on Time?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go re-set some clocks.

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