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Passing the baton of hubris

“Our Hubris Will Be Our End” (and yet, someone will adapt…):

The thing we humans of the Anthropocene share with the Nanticoke and the Unami-speaking Lenape who used to live on the Delmarva Peninsula, and with the !Kung of the Kalahari, the Yukaghir of Siberia, the medieval Persians, the ancient Mayans, the blue-painted Picts, the Neolithic proto-Chinese Peiligang peoples and the Paleolithic nomads of the Pleistocene Era is precisely our ability to adapt to changing conditions, primarily through the collective use of symbolic reasoning and narrative. Homo sapiens can live almost anywhere on Earth, under almost any conditions; all we need is a story telling us why our lives matter.

I know it, I know it, I think about it all the time when I ponder the next era. But it doesn’t make it any less frustrating, how stupid we can be, in the face of ample evidence on how to prevent it.

In some unknown future, on some strange and novel shore, human beings just like us will adapt to a whole new world. You can see them sitting circled around a fire on the beach, the light flickering on their rapt faces, one telling a story about a mighty civilization doomed by its hubris, an age of wonders long past.

I just hope we leave good books for them, to help them understand it wasn’t inevitable. It never is.


You Don’t Say: Dow Hits 20,000

Much has been made, with excited anticipation and finally realized jubilation, of an index of stocks from 30 companies reaching a round number like 20,000.

And then over here you have:

People should also be aware, Mr. Kelly said, that expected cuts in capital gains taxes has kept many investors from taking profits during the rally. The thought being, that if they were to wait several months, they could dump their stocks and face a lighter tax bill in the process.

There’s more, but… oh I can’t even.

Eyes in the Stars

I was born to see two thousand years
Of man’s effect upon the planet
Extinction seems to be a plausible risk
Whatever happens I’m a part of all this

–“Pandemonium,” Killing Joke

Is freedom so great
To fight for food?
Compete for shelter?
Who is the top dog?
Is this the winter of humankind?
What has become of us?
What made us blind?

After disclosure comes
Man takes his rightful place
Amongst the stars
The celestial barge awaits

One by one, we embark
To the sun behind the sun

–“Into the Unknown,” Killing Joke

I got to know my wife under the gaze of Orion. I wooed her under nods to Caseiopea and the “seven sisters” of Pleiades. I spend winter nights soaking in the hot tub staring at all of these, enjoying the clear sky in the crisp winter air.

Pleiades resonates almost universally with stargazers for being visible “from virtually every place that humanity inhabits Earth’s globe. It can be seen from as far north as the north pole, and farther south than the southernmost tip of South America.”

There is something wonderful about staring at these parts of our universe so far away knowing people so relatively close — yet so far — are staring at them with me.

In these settings I get humanity’s historical fascination and attachment to the stars, its projection of irrational meaning and attachment to them. They are constant in a world that is not. They offer some form of structure or packaging to the vast chaos that is our home.

As I sit in the hot tub pondering the infinite — or is it a vanishing point? — horizon of life and time, I think of these visuals that draw us together across physical space, time zones, generations, time.

As I watch a plane’s lights far up in the night sky literally fly in between me and Pleiades long enough to briefly block the constellation of stars 425 light years (!) away, I think of the frightening fragility of life, the relatively brief window in time of our civilization, and the many ways we can destroy ourselves in an instant.

Donald Trump, climate change denier, reality TV-emboldened narcissist and oblivious friend to all those who too easily place their own lifespans above everyone who might follow, is president-elect.

It gives one pause.

File Under: Things you never thought needed to be said

“Monsanto has no intention of genetically modifying a bee, or having a bee that pollinates Monsanto-only crops.”

— From a Post-Dispatch story on Monsanto trying to break bread with beekeepers, who have various reasons and/or underground theories to fear Monsanto’s G.M. activities are a factor in the plummeting bee population.

Because of the industries it participates in, and the nature of fear and the unknown, Monsanto is always facing PR challenges like this. Which lead to surreal quotes like the above, and fun songs that plum the depths of conspiracy theory waters.

Reassurance: Photos from the rally for sanity

Off-topic: Cathedral entrance at Prague Castle

When things seem bleak, the country sounds insane, and 24-hour news, the Internet and GOP tactics dumb down everyone, sometimes pictures are enough to bring the proper levity.

Funny or Die’s 55 Funniest Signs from the Stewart/Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity: So refreshing.

Alas, sanity has not been restored, but point-and-mocking at stupidity is alive and well.

Under the stars, on a bend

When we see people
We see people
We see people who are not whole
They have two arms and
They have two legs and
Something is missing and we just don’t know
We can’t name it
There’s no name for it

Thrown into an Existence Machine
And spit out
Inside out and outside in
And spit out
Who keeps it running? Who keeps it running?
Who is checking the oil?

After Laughter Comes Tears” ~ The Robocop Kraus

The whole “Work to live; don’t live to work” thing is well-meant. All power to people who like their job — I’d consider myself one — but the things I do away from the job just seem to get better and better. Everybody has a “thing” they do. You find your things, you do ’em, you enjoy the payoff.

There we were last weekend, two dads, the uncle (me) and a grandpa, taking two boys (6 and 7) out on the Current River for a sublime canoe and camping trip. We left Friday morning and so were ahead of the obnoxious drunkard weekend crowd — 300 canoes putting in up river above us (we’re obnoxious and drinking too, but we only direct it at ourselves).

The Milky Way
Nice to see you again.

It was overcast all Friday so the Sun couldn’t zap all of our energy on the first day. We found an ideal island beach for a camping site — the best camp site we’d see on this 10-mile stretch of the river, it turns out. We lived.

The island was big enough for the boys to explore the wonders of the outdoors before settling into s’mores time at the fire. It was small enough to make sure no one else camped with us.  It was at a bend in the river, so we saw 250 degrees of river, a steep mud dropoff on the opposite side of the river, and slept that night to the sound of rushing water through the bend.

To add the finishing touch, the sky cleared up completely at nightfall, so without the Moon we saw the clearest sky I’ve ever seen without being on open water. I slept looking up through my tent’s screen ceiling to see nothing but a clear and infinite field of stars from sky’s edge to sky’s edge. And when I woke up in the middle of the night to pass some of the day’s beer, I was nearly knocked off my feet by the sight of the Milky Way streaking diagonally across the sky.

Dude! I’m looking through the thick of the galaxy! I’m living and feeling everything I want at this moment in time! Camping with loved ones, guiding an appreciation of this to the next generation — even the beer, which must be in cans on the river, was excellent. I honestly have never had a more ideal camp site, weather included.

As if confirming the purity of the weekend’s ideal, we woke up to a clear sunny day, blue sky, white fluffy clouds, and another great morning canoeing in the cool spring-fed water. To start that morning off with a bit of camping luxury, I brought out the coffee press. Food and drink are never better than when you have them in that “This is way too good to be consumed out here” setting.

There are ways to survive and thrive in this existence machine. You just have to know how to check the oil.

Thank goodness they’re mineable

Balance of the ecosystem, self-reliance beckons us
Windmills and waterfalls, strawberries and lily ponds
When skyscrapers no longer block the Sun’s meridian
When we awake to the whisper of the voice…

Tapping into the aeon … tapping into the aeon

Aeon” ~ Killing Joke, 1996

I quote that song all the time, but I can’t help it. In the right setting the whole thing is beautiful (though the original production quality is a little muddy, undermining my praise and clouding the chords). It’s sort of ambitious in scope, but that’s the point. “Aeon” is a word of vast scope, no matter which of its connotations you lean on.

So the song always starts playing in my head when I think of humanity’s long-term relationship to and effect on the Earth.

Myriad experiences of billions of humans
Recorded in the memory the compassion of their gods
Beauty defined by disfigurement and symmetry
Re-evaluate their history, reassess their symbols

Such as now. It’s just way too ironic and fitting that they believe Afghanistan is sitting on a trillion dollars’ worth of mineable material like lithium. Ah-ha, suddenly it’s worth fighting for!

States need raw resources to trade with others and thrive. The incentive behind wars is usually heavily influenced or altered by the spoils of such resources. (But patriotism makes a much better rally cry than, “We need their shit.”) So for the Afghans who desire a standard of living boost, it’s nice that their tortured country is sitting on something it can farm. But man, is it worrisome, in so many ways, to think about how all of that will be sorted out.

The phrase, “the Saudi Arabia of lithium,” sure gives one pause. But they say it like that’s a good thing.

Oh, why yes of course there is…

This really shouldn’t surprise me, but even my jaded people-watching soul didn’t see this coming:

Even as rescued teenage sailor Abby Sunderland makes her way back home to California, a battle is shaping up over who will tell the story of her harrowing sea voyage — and what the story line will be.

Who will tell the story? What the story line will be?! What is the wha-what? Can’t believe I forgot there was money to be made off the event.

The possibility of dueling narratives emerged this week as a Los Angeles production team and Abby’s parents squabbled over the back story of her attempted around-the-world journey.

Heh heh. Just that there’s a “production team” involved tells me all I need to know. It sounds like a stupid story — pointless risks for a “world record” that will only race to the bottom, toward younger and younger solo sailors.

It remains unclear whether any type of film or reality TV show will emerge from Abby’s aborted trip. But the possibility has intensified debate over the Sunderland brand image and whether her story should be celebrated or serve as a cautionary tale.

Brand image! Awesome. Yes, do get the story straight, won’t you? I need to know which life lesson your inspiring personal saga should teach me. The article goes on to say the dad went on Larry King Live to defend himself which — I’m sorry, you wouldn’t need to straighten your story with anyone unless you intended to milk it. It’s true, buddy, you really can return to anonymity if you just resist the urge to feed the masses. But I’m betting you wouldn’t be here in this situation if you could do that.

This is one of those deals, like your average Kardashian what-not, where I’m sorry I’m even vaguely aware of who the person is. (Who are these people, where do they come from, and why do they try so hard to get us to care?!)

‘My Sextape Nightmare’

I have this disconnect, part of my love-hate relationship with my species: I like life. I like people. I feel connected to people. But boy they can sort of make me sick. I like stories. I like people telling me their stories. But my, am I turned off by people who live manufactured stories for the sole purpose of packaging them for sale.

I was in the long grocery store line today. (DAMMIT I always make the mistake of going to the curiously short line, which is always the line everyone’s abandoned because of the slow checker!) I was listening to my iPod, scanning strangers, eyes finally wandering to the tripe that passes for reading material in the checkout line. (I really should just bring a book.) My eyes stopped on some celeb-watching magazine’s cover that said: “Kendra: My Sextape Nightmare.”

…which of course cracked my shit up. There was something in the subhead about her worrying about her baby finding out about the tape or something. I don’t know who Kendra is (I notice I’m hearing her name more and more), but if you have a sextape, no one cares unless you’re trying to become famous. Even if you have a child, your child can probably get over the sextape (“sex is natural, hon’, birds and bees”) — unless of course the tape was in some way related to you trying to become famous.

I figure except for the extraordinarily strange and unlucky, if you have a sextape and the media cares about it, you either deliberately leaked the thing to become (more) famous, or you made it at a time when you wouldn’t have minded if it one day helped you become famous.

So I’m sorry about your nightmare and your kid, I guess. But unless you really are a mess (and signs point to … yes), the child will probably get over it.

Sacrilege! And also with you

So this is pretty awesome: They’re making changes to the Catholic liturgy. Last time that happened, the changes were incredibly huge and my father essentially refused to recognize them. (Ain’t no one telling him the mass can be said in anything but Latin. Ain’t no reason we should see the priest’s face. Ain’t no reason you can’t starve yourself fast in order to earn a piece of the nourishing bread that has been transformed into the body of the main man.)

This time the changes are much smaller, almost to the point of absurdity. And they do away with some lines that are burned into my brain, even still. (e.g. Gone is, “And also with you,” replaced by the awkward “And with your spirit.”)

This link at stltoday has a few more changes side-by-side, though it will expire in a few days because the Post doesn’t view its content as having much shelf life.

My favorite change (“favorite” as in “OMG that’s hilariously awkward!”) is the following. Currently, the “Gloria” goes like this, and it’s often sung in an actually tolerable way — I always saw it as the closest the Mass comes to actually rapping, which is cool (there are actually a ton of varieties of how it’s sung, but the one I remember most was pretty rap-like):


Glory to God in the high-est,
and peace to his people on Earth
Lo-o-ord God, heavenly King,
Almighty God and Faaaaa-ther:
We worship you.
We give you thanks.
We praise you-oo for your glo-o-ry.

*I capitalize “Earth.” In my book, it’s a named planet; it deserves the capital “E.” Many disagree, including the Church. But if God gets big “G”s all around, why not also His creation, eh?

Anyway, the revisions to that Gloria make it look like this:


Glory to God in the highest
And on Earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you, we bless you, we adore you
We glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory,
Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father.

Holy string of redundant appositives, Batman! The “how many names can we think of?” God/king/god/father string is still there (though moved to the end), but now they’ve busted out the thesaurus to show how many different ways we can tell God* what it is that we’re doing to him. (praise, bless, adore, glorify, give thanks, make war and shame people in his name, etc.).

*the kicker: Supposedly he already knows.

They’re also doing away with the ol’ “Christ has diiied. Christ has ris-en. Christ will come agaaaaaiiin.”

I’m not sure why they’re doing away with that old favorite. Frankly, I’m not sure why the Church does much of what it does. But these changes should create enough congregation confusion to make going to Mass a delightful hoot.

P.S. Thankfully they didn’t do something drastic, like let females be priests or let priests marry. Heavens, that wouldn’t do a lick of good, no not at all.