Beans and Strangers

It’s all about the can of beans.

People fear the Other and fail to see the humanity of strangers. This was the message in a short story I read in an English class years ago. The professor spoke about how the fear of others is unjustified and that we can live together. Humanitarian goals benefit everyone.

Then he stopped and stared out into space for a few seconds. As he continued, he said that these are all noble goals, but in the end, people care only for their own can of beans.

The last few survivors in the post-apocalyptic book, “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, kill for that last can of food found on any shelf.  Those beans mean life or death. The stashes of silver and gold are useless.

In a struggle between us and the Other, human nature gravitates toward selfish goals. Glimmers of humane treatment of others exist in McCarty’s book but only after being tempered and tested with severe, life-preserving distrust.

We protect our little band of friends and family and hope to make their lives happier and easier. How much energy can we expend on strangers? To expand on that idea, just how much can we move out of the here and now, and empathize with those that lived in the  past or will live in the future?

The past and future remain inscrutable. All I know about my great-grandmother, who lived to the age of 94, is that she hauled water from a well back to her home on the day that she died. She lived on another continent, another time. She is only an interesting anecdote to me.

Chances are that I will never see great-grandchildren. To feel love and empathy for hypothetical children or adults in the future is a strain. We would love to say altruism guides us and we care about the future as much as the children right in front of us, but human nature selfishly holds on to the now.

The here and now is all we have. Isn’t that what the trendy Eastern religions teach? To love the Other is a worthwhile goal, but opposes ancient instincts.  We must eat for today or else the future is irrelevant.

Let us hope for a time that humans can sever the dichotomy of good and evil that exists within us all.  At that time, maybe love will be all that we need.

Advertisements

Of Human Bondage

viniciuggarcia Pixabay

viniciusggarcis Pixabay

A dark, depressing book brings me some peace. That book is “Of Human Bondage” by Somerset Maugham.

In the novel, Philip loves Mildred, a woman that tortures him and never loves him back. He loses hope and questions the point of being alive. An acquaintance tells him the meaning of life can be found in a Persian carpet. Before he can unlock the mystery of the carpet it is destroyed.

Later on when he keeps thinking about the lost carpet, he unlocks the secret. The patterns in the carpet, the cycle of life and death, are all we have. Life has no meaning on this rock hurtling through space. But this insignificance gives Philip power.

Forget about the meaning of life and just find a place in the pattern. Failure and success are all the same. Just live as best as you can.

Nivana is a big nothingness in an Eastern culture. The elimination of life on earth is the goal.

My Western mindset pursues meaning in life. A life that does not end in death but continues on to a blissful, new afterlife.

The Eastern viewpoint makes more sense to me than the Western one.

It’s kind of odd that meaninglessness provides more comfort to me than everlasting life. Getting composted back into the All seems to be a useful occupation for the dead. Not too shabby to be One with the Cosmos.

But how much do my sensibilities matter in the grand scheme of things? For all I know, this universe may be running on Calvinist principles. If that hurts anyone’s sensibilities, no one cares.

The Race War of Words

Race to most racist

I know you are, what am I?

No victor in sight

A Fabrication by Any Other Name

I prefer books over screens for my entertainment. I scoff at people that find joy in gluing their eyes to a computer screen. Surely reading is a superior way to spend time. To be fair, on closer inspection, just how different is virtual reality from fictional reality?

Human interaction suffers when life is lived predominantly within a computer screen. Yet many times, I get so involved in a book that I dread any human interfering with my turning of the next page. I want to stay in my fictional world. Screens and books are best as solitary endeavors.

I too feel the draw of a world filled with ubiquitous screens. I waste time clicking and scrolling through computer articles and photos. The dog and cat videos make me laugh. But I fear the sway of advertisements that push me to buy what the most powerful social media forces out there are selling. I try to resist this modern siren call.

Besides my Etch-a-Sketch, the television was the only screen I could stare at when I was young. My staring was limited to one-hour per day. And that hour had to be broken in half. So a half hour in the morning, another half hour in the afternoon. Maybe that explains why I read. I could explore fictional (and non-fictional) worlds with the flip of a page.

A flip of a page or a swipe of a screen, are they so different? I’m sure I could be swayed by reading too; that is if I only read one book. A wide and diverse reading list protects independent thinking. Social media lies behind a heavy curtain.

My father took me to the Detroit Institute of Arts one Saturday when I was young. I fell in love with this exciting, brand-new world.

Years later, I took my son and his cousin to the art museum. They were bored to death. I thought the suit of armor exhibits would surely interest them. More boredom. Unlike me, they had already spent hours playing video games and had a broader access to television. Television and computers were part of their school curriculum. How can a bit of paint on a canvas compete with the fast-changing and addictive colors and sounds that run across screens?

And yet, I admit to my own addiction. An addiction to the arrangements of 26 letters across a page. How can I judge others?

Books energize me, too much screen time depresses me. A screen has the power to dull a mind and passively lead a person to buy the ideas and products displayed so attractively on the virtual shelves.

Reading is far more active. A reader interacts with the author, with the stuff already read or experienced creating a solid foundation to build up ideas. Who knows, it can even bring about a change in long-held beliefs. Books breed independence and knowledge building. The ceaseless chatter of information on a computer ends up feeling shallow.

My prejudices lead me to forget that the oral storytelling tradition led to books and then books led to computers. Perhaps this is an inevitable course of events that is not necessarily better or worse, just the progress of imagination. The end of the oral tradition weakened our connection to each other. In turn, we connected with machines. Human to human, human to machine, machine to . . . How does the story end?

Cold and Heartless

I took a lousy yoga class where the instructor laughed at the students. For one pose, she said she will be the only one that will need a towel. From a sitting position, she bent herself forward and touched her head to the towel on the floor. And then she smirked.

Shortly after this class, I read an article on the internet that stated it is a shame some yoga instructors can’t make a living. I am not ashamed that I will never patronize that lousy teacher again.

I take yoga classes from two excellent instructors now. They are motivational, bring the class peaceful meditative moments, and push each participant to pursue each pose to a safe, effective level. They both make a living as yoga teachers since many students sign up and pay for their classes. They also instruct and get paid for teaching others at how to conduct a yoga class.

When still in school, I overheard a young woman speak to an English professor about becoming an English professor herself. This student was surprisingly good in the field of biology as well as English. She was sure that biology was a more sensible future.

The professor told her not to worry since she was one of the best and the best will be able to compete. The student was a class valedictorian, she was highly driven, and skilled. The teacher encouraged her to enter the competitive field in academia if that was her desire. She pursued her love of English literature and did became a professor.

Don’t believe the lie that you can be whatever you want to be. A grade C- student will not rise to the top of a highly competitive field. Instead find another path, desire is not always destiny. Break your heart early before you complete a degree program and still end up with no viable job prospects. No one may want you except the student-loan debt collectors.

Schools and businesses should coordinate the real-world job market with young people and their the dreams. This will be especially important if college is free for all.

Some fields that require no college are begging for workers. Some of these jobs may provide a good income and satisfaction. It doesn’t hurt to research options.

Life is not fair. Yoga instructors must find balance within the job market.

Doom or Gloom

My parents taught me to have faith in neither God nor man, Alexandria. My inbred skepticism questions faith in science as well.

These paths are not irrelevant to me. I love to go to where physics intersects with poetry. I want nothing more than to be alive long enough to find out what the hell this dark matter and dark energy thing is. Infinity, both in a religious and scientific sense, is incomprehensible and yet I strive for an understanding of it.

But I question whether science can provide a cleaner, more efficient nuclear power plant that will absolve us of the evils of climate change. Solar and wind power come with their own problems. Problems of inefficiency and danger to animal welfare haunt green energy. Fossil fuels won’t last forever and their pollutants are the biggest chunk of the climate change disaster. If we want to continue using the good in technology, we might have to live (or die) with the inherent problems.

Man and machine can no longer live apart. Severing this relationship will cause destruction and suffering. It’s funny, what science has brought about will require an almost religious renunciation.

Both humans and machines consume massive amounts of foodstuffs, whether it be wheat or coal. Or, ironically, corn and corn.

To halt climate change, fuel-guzzling machinery such as airplanes and trucks must quickly come to a point of near elimination. We only need to determine how much and how fast the cuts should be. How many people and machines must be decommissioned? Twelve years is a short time to do this work.

A simpler, less mechanical time is ideal. In turn, the loss of life-prolonging machinery will naturally lower the human population. Less people, less machines, less climate change. There is no other way if the danger is extreme and the cost too high to ignore.

God may be dead, but will faith in a rebirth of matriarchal power save us?

I hope, Alexandria, you chose well when you separate the worthless from the worthwhile. Keep lists, inform on the good and evil among us. I pray to find myself sitting to your right hand.

Now With 50% Less Sarcasm

Alexandria, it makes sense to stop bringing children into a world at the brink of a climate change disaster. Actually, half the problem facing this planet is overpopulation.

The other half of the problem lies in the technology/machine creation that pollutes the earth and dooms the life on its surface. Advancements in technology cut mortality rates for both the very young and the very old. Now the people/machine combination consumes too much. The elimination of machines may also be in our future. But today let’s talk about radical population control on all levels.

You have to admit that less people milling about would do much to get to a healthier planet and provide a more pleasant existence.

By cutting the human population, we can control many evils: traffic jams; piles of garbage; smog; light pollution; personal and international conflicts; strains on infrastructure; rusting junkyards; polluted waters; overconsumption of natural resources. Less people would naturally eliminate many environmental problems. Green energy alone cannot solve the problems of mass consumption. Extreme cuts in flesh and metal are necessary.

The big problem is in the selling of this idea. Your rich friends and enemies won’t want to sacrifice anything. The poorer people won’t believe they have anything to sacrifice. You have to stop overpromising a prosperous future for the constituents. Instead go out there and burst balloons. (Not literally, you know, latex waste.) Sacrifice must be sold.

People think they have the right to reproduce. You have to change this false idea. Immigrants are eager to enter the country and they can replace the falling population rate. Of course, immigrants entering the country must also adhere to strict rules on breeding. America must lead the world in the ultimate goal of massive depopulation.

Scientists estimate that in 50 years, the world population will peak at 9 billion and then begin to decline. By 2100, the world population is estimated to decline to 8.4 billion; still an increase of more than 2 billion people that exist today. Instead of Zero Population Growth, Negative Population Growth should be the norm. Strive for much less than 2.1 children per couple.

Egotism is a human problem. We think the earth is nothing without our life on it. Earth existed billions of years before us and will exist billions of years after us.

Humans created climate change because the machines they created provided many comforts. Humans want to reverse climate change because the dangers now override the comforts. Appeal to our egos. If we don’t cease multiplying our species, no future humans may survive. Keep up the false illusion that human life is worthwhile.

Alexandria, save the human race whether it wants to be saved or not.