The Smoke Rings of My Mind

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The Smoke Rings of My Mind

I landed in college as a green wide-eyed freshman, at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (NOT Penn State!), in September 1968. This was an explosive year, to my mind the most pivotal one in the United States since 1945. My dorm room was in a short cul-de-sac second floor hallway of the large antique pseudo Oxford-Cambridge style ivy-festooned stone masonry men’s dorm quadrangle building off Spruce Street.

I felt really good to finally have gotten out of the prison day-camp Catholic boys high school I’d been in for 4 years, and out of the nice suburban North Shore Long Island town my family lived in during my adolescence (before that being in New York City); and I had a brand spanking new draft deferment that I thought would insulate me from the carnage of the Vietnam War, which was at its peak at that time with the Tet Offensive.

In fact, Lyndon Johnson’s televised speech with the surprise announcement that he would not seek reelection in November 1968 happened two days after my 18th birthday, after which I had to troop down to the post office and register for the draft. That didn’t feel too good believe me, because I’d watched the news and read the papers daily all through high school. Those were my “Greta Thunberg” years, 1964-1968: from the Bay of Tonkin con-job and 1965’s Marine invasion of South Vietnam — “escalatio” as Tom Lehrer called it — to Tet, erupting on January 31, 1968, and pulsing through three bloody phases that year; when I was dreading the fucked-up situation the adults were shoving my way (you know: die for us, it’s good for “the country”).

My own priorities were: #1, study engineering so I could become the next Enzo Ferrari and build my own sports cars; #2, find receptive female companionship to find an outlet for my raging testosterone levels; and #3, stay out of Vietnam. I was not wise as an 18-year-old, I was NORMAL, having been instructed about women (“girls” was the pre-feminist term used then) by Beach Boys songs (those cherub troubadours of the white colonial culture of the Occupied Territories of Mexico’s northern part of Baja California) and Sophia Loren movies.

In the decades since then I’ve come to realize how difficult it is for women everywhere, and most certainly in the United States with its huge proportion of knucklehead males, to accept becoming the “second mothers” to so many needy fake-macho lunkheads: pickings for good husbands, mates and sperm donors (drones in the Bee World) can be slim for so many alert and intelligent women.

But, in the fall of 1968 I was feeling good and with high hopes. I burrowed enthusiastically into my school work and got on the Dean’s List. Three of us in our hallway were socially awkward and stayed in at night from lack of alternatives and fear blunting initiative. Besides, all the coeds had lots of upperclassmen to pick from and who owned cars and had money to spend. So, Joe Williams invited two or three of us to listen to his Bob Dylan records (note: using a plug-in electric machine that played vinyl discs to produce recorded music sounds).

Now, I had heard all the pop music of the day every day before that, because I had gone to my somewhat distant high school in a carpool driven by a neighbor boy’s father (a NYC fireman with rank, so lots of time to call his own), in a Ford Econoline van (a very cute unsafe-as-hell design), and Robert (the son) would put on the radio for every trip. Beside hearing it all in this way (the grating falsetto Sherry Baby too, too many times, but the Rascals on “Good Lovin’” was the best), and outside school it was so easy to hear spillover sounds from radios playing everywhere. At home I listened to the classical music and Spanish Zarzuelas (operettas) so close to my heart. So, by September 1968 I knew about Dylan’s hit songs up to that point.

But, Joe Williams said we had to hear Dylan the right way. Joe turned us on to grass: marijuana. We would sit up through the night listening to Dylan’s 1965 and 1966 albums: “Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” and “Blonde on Blonde.” We laughed our asses off totally stoned listening to “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35” — “everybody must get stoned!” — yeah. It was so hilarious to read the “adult” press on this, where the experts saw in this song a deep poetic cry of alienation. Man, the adult world is just one big blivet of puffery.

I had heard all the popular folk music during its period of prominence, which coincided with the Civil Rights movement from about 1961 to its crescendo in August 1963 when Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed his dream to the nation and world from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial (which is my favorite single building in Washington D.C.), until its triumphs with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

At that point Bob Dylan checked out of the topical political protest folk singer-songwriter role he’d mastered, and moved on artistically. No creative person can stand typecasting. Dylan’s early career in pure folk music was masterful, but I wasn’t into folk music. I turned onto Dylan when he went electric. For me a good song has both good words (even poetry) plus lots of really good instrumental music. And this essay is, believe it or not, about that.

Bob Dylan went on tour in 1966, backed by a 5 piece rock band, 4 of whose musicians (except the drummer) were a longtime group that would emerge on their own in 1968 as “The Band.” Dylan was booed at all his concerts in Europe and at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, as a “traitor” to the pure folk music style his earlier audiences had typecast him into. Even his pals Pete Seeger and Joan Baez were put off. Why?

In the late 1930s, Frank Sinatra exploded into popularity because he revolutionized how pop music was delivered to the fans. Earlier singing phenomena, like Bing Crosby, knew how to croon with projection to make up for the deficiencies of the crude electrified public address systems of the times, if one even existed in the halls they sang in. By Frank’s high school years (which he bailed out on) microphones and amplifiers were improving significantly (“modern” hi-fi equipment was finally introduced by RCA in 1941).

Tony Bennett has perceptively pointed out that with this new equipment Frank Sinatra did not need to project, so he “made love to the microphone” and sang in a very intimate style, and which every listener in the dance halls and over the radio broadcasts felt was delivered just to them, person-to-person. The Bobby-Soxers went ape-shit over this, a mega-scale precursor to the Beatlemania of 20 years later.

This is where Frank Sinatra was a pivotal figure in the evolution of broadcast popular music: he had that smooth melting crooner’s voice (and had even taken voice lessons from an ex-Metropolitan Opera vocal coach), he had lovely breath control (much learned from Jo Stafford, listen to her meltingly wonderful “The Nearness of You”) with which to fashion long lingering phrases, and he had that intimate emotional and yet cool even vulnerable at times feeling, which he conveyed so convincingly.

Bob Dylan’s folk music was conveyed to his initially small audiences in just this intimate way. Even without a P.A. system, a non-projective (non-operatic, non-Irish tenor) style of singing was just fine in the always small coffee houses and folk clubs of Greenwich Village in the 1950s and early 1960s. And of course, Dylan’s albums from 1961 to 1964 carried his recorded intimate-delivery folk music far and wide.

Now, the American folk music of the early ’60s was nothing like the polished hip big band standards that Frank Sinatra put out, but even at its most angry, and ‘protesty’ and ‘shouty’, the folk music of those years was essentially intimate (think Phil Ochs): it spoke to the personal feelings for and dreams of social transformation in each of the audience members, and with minimal acoustic instrumentation. Those songs were usually not stadium-sized sing-along sonic-boom anthems like Freddy Mercury’s “We Will Rock You,” even though Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-changin’,” and “Blowing In The Wind” sort of became ones.

So by 1965, Bob Dylan was typecast by his folk fan base as “their” intimate public voice. But by then Dylan had gotten stoned and was now deep into making group electric music for being stoned. That was the first pop music that could burrow into your stone-cave and light up the panorama movie screen of your stone-mind with its soundtrack — for so many of us lunkhead males, and also for plenty of girls (sorry: women) as I soon learned from direct experience —: the blazing folk-rock of Dylan in 1965 and 1966: “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” and “Like A Rolling Stone.”

The poor folkies who wanted to be aurally cuddled by their post-Beatnik second daddy folksong troubadour wailed about their Big Brother’s abandonment of them. This is where Bob Dylan is a pivotal figure in American (U.S.) broadcast popular music: his was the folk-blues phantasmagoria of proto-rap lyrical torrents cascading out on streams of blazing hot blues-rock electric music that engulfed the newly stoned minds of the emerging adolescent and young adult nymphs, and the innocent drones and satyrs scheduled as cannon fodder for the Vietnam meat-grinder. That was me.

In 1969, I lost my deferment (2S) and was classified as ready for war right then (1A), because of some screw-up where it was reported to the draft board that “my” grades were failures. For those people any boy Garcia was the same person, so I get pegged with someone else’s failure. When I called the draft board to complain about this clerical error, telling them I could send them a copy of my dean’s list letter from the school, the old lady scarecrow on the phone just said to me “once we start the process we just keep going.” Up to 1968, 50% of the Vietnam War casualties among U.S. soldiers were Blacks and Latinos, always sent out “on point” by their white-boy lieutenant platoon commanders ‘leading’ their men, from the rear, into jungle ambuscades (I heard about such things from first hand recollections by Puerto Rican veterans who survived their 1960s in Vietnam).

So I basically lost my mind, desperate to achieve my goal #2 before being done in by a failure to meet goal #3; and I kept up my studies in the hopes of being ultimately able to proceed with my career ambitions to do engineering and science in a creative way, should I survive. I eventually lucked out by getting a very high number in the draft lottery of December 1969, and so I was passed over for being inducted into the U.S. military.

And during those years of 1968 and 1969, I listened to much music designed to accompany being stoned: Dylan, Doors, Janis Joplin, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, and even Crosby Stills and Nash. Janis and CSN were favorites in the girls’ dorms (dorms were segregated by sex in those days, so making an overnight stay involved careful planning and inside help to pull off, like a bank heist caper). I learned much about all this music from the young ladies — all of them far more socially aware than me, keenly informed about pop music, and all very bright — who accepted me into their group company to listen to records at night.

After 1969 I started becoming an adult, but that is another story. Last tip: put Crème de menthe into your bong instead of water, especially helpful with hashish.

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The Climate Threat from Arctic Methane Releases

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The Climate Threat from Arctic Methane Releases

A friend, who is an intelligent person with no science background, asked me to explain simply what the concern expressed with alarm by many scientists and (anti) climate change activists is about the increasing rate of methane gas emissions in the Arctic. That attempted explanation follows.

From even before the extinction of the dinosaurs by the Chicxulub Meteor 66 million years ago (66mya), to about 34mya, the Earth was much warmer (the peak occurred 50mya) and there was no polar ice, north or south.

Antarctica was covered in forests and jungles; the Arctic Ocean was a warm sea ringed by swamps and forests of ferns and Redwood trees along the Eurasian and North American northern continental shores; and those swamps swarmed with crocodiles.

Between 34mya to 12mya Earth’s temperature fluctuated and Antarctica froze thawed and refroze. Then Panama swung into place closing the oceanic gap between North (Central) and South America, and that altered ocean currents so that a Southern Ocean circumpolar current sealed off Antarctica climatically: the deep freeze of that continent that continues to this day.

That global cooling trend continued after 12mya and plunged Earth into the deep cold of the repeated glaciations of the Pleistocene Epoch (Ice Ages), from 2.58mya to 11,700ya, before the thawing of temperate latitudes introduced the balmy global climate we have enjoyed since.

All the lush and soggy vegetation around the Arctic Ocean was buried by sedimentation into the shallow continental shelves around that ocean, and then further locked away by the deep freeze producing permafrost, which extends quite a bit down below the ground surface, and down from the top of the seafloor of the shallows near land.

Rotting organic matter in the seas (algae, plants, fish, animals) sinks to the bottom and is decomposed by bacteria, and that produces methane gas (like cows fart from eating grass, and we fart from eating beans); but because of the cold and pressure deep down in all oceans, or in cold shallower seas like the Arctic, that gas actually combines with water into a fragile unstable crystal-like solid called methane clathrates or methane hydrates.

This is an “ice” that people can light up with a match and it burns like gas-soaked charcoal, but with a blue flame. When a methane hydrate solid is brought up to the surface of the ocean from the high pressure of the depths, it can spontaneously ignite because of the release of methane gas mixing with the oxygen in the air. Such flares have been seen on the ocean surface at night by airline pilots.

There is a large amount of compressed, frozen methane-rich organic matter, including peat, all along the sub-Arctic ring of sea and land about the Arctic Ocean. The thawing of that region is now increasingly releasing some of the trapped gas: from out of the clathrates, from out of subsurface compressed organic plant matter, and also from new underground fires burning peat seams and coal seams. Such fires are now extensive and burning continuously all along northern Siberia; they are called Zombie Fires.

Because of the complexities of molecular structure, a molecule of methane (CH4) has 2.5x (15/6) more ways of moving, plus rotating about and vibrating along the chemical bonds between its atoms, so as to store heat, than does a molecule of carbon dioxide (CO2). So, CH4 is 2.5x times more effective at being a global warming agent than CO2.

A large release of CH4 into the atmosphere will have a more pronounced global warming effect than an equal mass of CO2. But CH4 eventually combines with atmospheric oxygen molecules to form more CO2 and H2O (water).

What is happening in the Arctic is that the massive amount of stored subsurface methane — in all the forms that bound it — is now being warmed sufficiently to allow it to overcome the cold and pressure that used to hold it in. So there is an increasing rate of methane gas bubbling up from the seafloor, and from the Arctic tundra which is permafrost grassland that is thawing, slumping, and popping out with methane eruption craters, some tens of meters in diameter and depth. [1], [2]

Because of that accelerating rate of emission, and because the total amount of methane stored in the Arctic is so large, climate scientists are very concerned about the negative potential for our climate in the near future.

How worried? How fast? How alarming?

Well, the presently accelerating rate of carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere, and of global warming, is proceeding at a pace at least 20x that of previous major CO2 eruptions and global warming events in Earth’s geological past (like during the onset of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, 55.5mya); and that rate today could even be hundreds of times faster.

The CO2 increase in the atmosphere over the last century or so has equaled comparable amounts of increase that may have occurred over several thousand years during the massive eruption episodes in the geologic past that caused major extinctions.

During those past eruption events, where the pace of change was over thousands of years (a blink of the eye geologically), despite the extinctions that occurred much animal and plant life was able to adapt, and such adaptation carried on over longer spans of time was their transformation by biological evolution.

But today such a tactic of biological adaptation by a species in response to the shifting of climates is impossible because the genetic processes of evolution are far outpaced by the rapid rate of increase of CO2 concentration, and thus of global climate change.

However, we are not talking about doomsday in 5 or 10 years. Just think of how climate and weather have changed (gotten worse) since, say, the 1970s, and imagine a similar rate of degradation for another few decades, and you can then guess that sometime near the end of this century (maybe the 2070s) that Earth will really be at the edge of environmental collapse: if humanity had continue to do nothing about curbing its greenhouse gas emissions since this moment, and continues heedlessly emitting fossil fuel exhaust fumes beyond that point. 

Many people worry that such an unhappy timetable could be sped up if there were to be a truly massive eruption of “all” the methane locked up in the Arctic. If I get to live to be 100, in 2050, I’ll then know the ultimate course of Earth’s dynamic climate system.

Young people worldwide, sparked by Greta Thunberg [3], will be alive in 2050 and very much want to know NOW what the environmental conditions will be THEN, when they are supposed to experience their adult lives and be responsible for continuing civilization. And they have every right to demand that today’s adults do their intergenerational duty to pass on a hospitable Earth that sustains their dreams, our human civilization, and all species’s futures.

Within the next 10 years we had better begin to actually and continually cut down civilization’s (anthropogenic) annual CO2 emissions; by 25 years we had better be reducing them at a very pronounced rate; otherwise by 50 years Earth’s temperature may be high enough to trip the climate system into a new mode we will very much dislike — being much more of what we don’t like now — and which will be beyond our ability to correct regardless of whatever heroic measures we would then take, like miraculously dropping our CO2 emissions to zero forever.

The geophysical reality is that it takes the climate system hundreds of years (I once estimated 240 years) to BEGIN to shift in response to new atmospheric conditions. This is like a huge thermostat lag to a heating system of global scale, or like the lag between turning the rudder on a large ship and then actually having the ship begin to veer in a new direction.

It is because of this inertia that it is essential to stop our emissions as soon as possible (ASAP). The longer we wait — emitting more while waiting — the longer it will take Earth to respond to our finally throttling our emissions, and the longer it will take for the climate system to flush out that excess CO2 and lower the average global temperature. I estimate 1,000 to 1,400 years, but it could be much longer.

So that is what the worry about the increasing Arctic methane releases is all about.

Notes

[1] Giant new 50 meter deep crater opens up in the arctic tundra
https://siberiantimes.com/other/others/news/giant-new-50-metre-deep-crater-opens-up-in-arctic-tundra/

[2] More than 300 sealed craters are ticking time bombs from a total of 7000 plus arctic permafrost mounds
https://siberiantimes.com/other/others/news/more-than-300-sealed-craters-are-ticking-time-bombs-from-a-total-7000-plus-arctic-permafrost-mounds/

[3] “I Am Greta,” an excellent documentary about the young lady who is puncturing the big phonies of all our governments, on the overarching issue of climate change.
https://youtu.be/xDdEWkA15Rg

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Last Words

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Last Words

They hate us because we remind them of what they fear most — dying — and so they torture us, withholding morphine to punish us for our dying, to deny us some final joy, and they call that morality, righteousness against the sin of addiction. But, I know what it really is, deep down, it is the pleasure of cruelty inflicted on the helpless by terrified weaklings. Our only vengeance is knowing that in time they too in all likelihood will suffer this if they are unfortunate enough to fall under the power of those now young whom they abuse by training, which they call religion, to carry on with the same dreary deadness of soul and emptiness of mind and spirit. So open the valve, then turn out the light and go home, and you will have fulfilled your humanity by letting me fulfill mine.

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E Pluribus Unum

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E Pluribus Unum

Let’s make everybody worthless,
Then we can own them
Without paying a dime!
Think of the profits
Selling everybody everything
For nothing!
They’ll be so jealous
They’ll love us to death,
’N even that we’ll own!
We’ll buy rockets
Go take Mars
So when they get there
They’ll have to buy it from us!
We’ll buy a curtain
To wrap ‘round the Sun
So when they want sunshine
We meter it out
At what the market will bear,
Even more!
We’ll stream their dreams
And fantasies
Even God’s prayers
Will be by subscription
Through our monthly service
Autopay no cancellation!
Human achievement will reach its end
When we are gods
We will be eternity
Our logo slapped on the Universe’s ass,
Even inside Black Holes!
Praise be!
For all to see!

16 October 2020

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The Connected, and The Unmoored

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The Connected, and The Unmoored

I saw the sunrise, from pitch black to clear light over the canyon rim this morning. An owl was hooting before the light, the air warming as the dark faded. Heard the birds wake up and each begin its chatter; the hummers buzzing over my head to inspect me before tanking up at the nectar bottle. The turkeys gobbled confidently from across the canyon.

Made French Press coffee. Watched our cats play, stalking and chasing each other on the hill as morning light expanded. We later ate some simple cold cuts, cheeses, bread, pasta salad; cool water.

I played, stumbling with some exponential functions, trying to simulate CO2 buildup in the atmosphere (55.5 million years ago, and also again today), a perennial project. Seems pointless to tell people about it, but it keeps my mind occupied, and I’m curious. That CO2 and its growing heat will be with “us” for centuries, a millennia? (who cares?).

Went out a few times to look at the day, which was lovely, with only a subdued hint of ash haziness from the fires up north. My mother is living with us for a while, waiting it out. She told me of her grandmother who raised her, who was born in the last days of Spanish rule in Puerto Rico, before the 1898 takeover by the Yankee Conquistadores. My mother wishes she could buy the platanos to make pastelón, like her grandmother used to make for her in Río Piedras.

I thought of my father, who would have been 96 on his birthday during these early days of October. I remember the stories he told me of his father’s childhood, spent with his father sheepherding in the Cantabrian Mountains, in the very early years of the 20th century: stories of facing off against prowling wolves, armed with long wooden staffs and Great Pyrenees mountain dogs, of drinking wine from the bota, of wild strawberries, and bagpipes.

Watched a nature video from 26 years ago, about Caribbean sea life, so lovely then. Had Caprese and guacamole (with tortilla chips) for supper, both made to perfection; I handwashed the dishes.

Watched a video (from 30 years ago) on the life and art of Mozart; I always have tears well up when I hear the Lacrimosa.

Life is short, and there is so much to do, so much to experience, even for us lacking the talent, grace and insight of a Wolfgang Amadeus, and I see none of what is worthwhile in the close-in noisy opaque bubbles everyone jams their heads into to plug up their senses with the flickering trivialities and remote dramas of the moment.

The owl, the birds, the turkeys, the cats, the critters who keep out of my sight (but not the cats’s), and later the crickets at night, they all know what is happening at any moment every moment. They have to, to eat, to stay alive; for them paying attention is the essence of living, but so is napping in the sunshine, which they all in their turn do so luxuriantly.

We can be so pitifully disconnected, and most of us always are, for we just don’t notice the whole world changing: drying, melting, burning, receding, dying. It’s no wonder animals look at us with such amazement: “how could they be so clueless?” There’s always a reason I guess, a crisis of the moment, to not get out of your head and wake up to the flow of the world; but that’s just tragic: death. It’s also why people feel so alone, because in fact they are alone in desert bubbles, befuddled, lost castaways, wired to artificiality: empty static.

I realize I’m an anti-social socialist, a hermit socialist, “out of the loop” in every way for sure. And I need to be, it’s best.

My boy black cat — Buster — will bump into my leg at night, when I’m out looking onto the deep sound of the unseen. He understands of course, his connection to the primordial is undimmed by civilization, his wisdom is locked safely in DNA that has been 25 million years in the imprinting, and I appreciate his encouragement.

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Conflict and Choice for Human Survival

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Conflict and Choice for Human Survival

What can you say about people for whom the beauty of Nature does not inspire, and the fear of its destruction does not motivate?

People do not change unless they feel pain. Politics does not allow for social improvements unless first stung by social revolts. The idea of a spontaneous, peaceful and uneventful evolution of social improvement is delusional. Conflicts are necessary before social improvements can arise. The greater the need for those social improvements, the greater the conflicts necessary to open the possibilities for them to be realized.

Such conflicts always involve violence to one degree or another. Realistic proponents of non-violent social agitation know that the minimum violence necessary for them to achieve their goal requires that their people — the non-violent — suffer all the violence generated during their struggle, and which violence is perpetrated by the reactionary elements of society, those opposed to the social improvements sought. The status quo always reacts with violence to maintain itself. In the United States today that status quo is the domination of all aspects of economic, political and social life by White Supremacy and Capitalism. The magnitude of societal violence escalates in a vicious cycle as social reformers increase their own resorts to rebellious violence. Such vicious cycles are civil wars.

So it has been throughout history, and so it seems destined to remain for our species, as long as we are unable — by being unwilling — to renounce such behavior and evolve beyond it.

As of today, it seems that those who aim for the social improvements needed for all of humanity to live through the deterioration of climate brought on by affluent-human-caused global warming, and to eventually reverse it, will have to resort to social conflicts that admit to the inevitability of violence; minimally reactionary violence, and at worst civil wars.

If there is any threat of premature human extinction, it will only come from the escalation of violence in social conflicts with social reformers — revolutionaries — facing reactionary resistance during a time of rapid and severe deterioration of the environmental conditions necessary for human survival.

Since every creature and form-of-life has an instinct and will for survival, the possibility of such extinction will ultimately never deter revolutionaries motivated by global warming climate change, if they determine that the forces of reaction are implacable. Better then to die fighting than relinquish life, liberty and volition, to exploitation and annihilation by the global warming death-cult of intransigent reactionary domination.

As the conditions of life deteriorate for more and more people, an increasing number of them will be willing to make more desperate choices on the conduct of their lives, and on the conduct of their social advocacies.

The optimistic realization here — which is certainly utopian — is that we already have it in our power, as a collective, to make life whole for everybody. We only have to unite together in the choice to do so.

Premature human extinction is only as inevitable as the degree of our commitment to being intransigent in our fractious class-based and bigoted opposition to the species-wide social improvements necessary for our so-called civilization to be reformulated for the equitable benefit of all.

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Facing Extinction, My View

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Facing Extinction, My View

I read Ms. Catherine Ingram’s essay:

Facing Extinction
https://www.catherineingram.com/facingextinction/

The data she cites seems realistic and reasonable;

the inferences she draws about potential, likely and current forms of consequential social and societal breakdown seem logical;

the observations she makes about the feelings, reactions, sadnesses and denial many people will respond with to the facts about global warming and biodiversity loss — and the dire implications for the long-term health and even survival of the human species — also seem rational and accurate;

and the recommendations she makes for managing one’s own state-of-mind — consciousness, psychology, expectations, mood, calmness — are helpful.

My comments on Ms. Ingram’s essay

You have to remember that (1 to 4):

1. Despite science being able to make credible estimates (from climate and socio-economic models with super-computers) about the pace at which the climate and environment will degrade, nobody really knows how quickly and to what extent society will degenerate. In 10 years time, life might be worse than we would imagine that future now, or it could be better than our fearful projections today. Who knows?

2. Looking back over the history of homo sapiens (200,000+ years), and over the history of homo (2M+ years), one sees a talent for adaptability to difficult circumstances. So, I find it unlikely that homo sapiens will “go extinct” even if social and environmental conditions deteriorate very quickly and very badly. But, those degradations would certainly cause much suffering, much death, and at some point begin reducing the human population. How far a reduction? I don’t know, but certainly not to zero, for a long long time.

3. If I had to throw out a number, I’d say we are good for at least 200 years. Why that number? Because anything less seem improbable to me, based a bit on the physics and a lot on gut feeling; and I can’t really project from any factual basis beyond 200 years, so I don’t know. Even so, I suspect people will continue to exist well beyond 200 years, but a guess without any educated justification.

4. Ingram phrases her recommendations for mentally coping with the facts about global warming climate change in a manner I would characterize as “psychotherapy.” I tend to phrase the same ideas from a perspective I think of as Zen Buddhism, in its most general sense. That is to say (a through g):

a. For each individual: life is always uncertain, life is precarious, death is certain to occur, but when and how are unknown.

b. Life is a gift, don’t waste it by living unaware of it: distracted by the “maya” of all our social fads, obsessions and daily ego dramas, and by all our technological gee-gaws facilitating our entertainment and “games.” You don’t necessarily have to be a Zen monk sitting in Za-Zen all night (kept up by green tea) and with consciousness totally focussed on the breath of the moment, but you definitely should keep very clear awareness of yourself, your body, the environment that surrounds you and beyond that the human network you allow yourself to be “attached” to.

c. The point is to actually experience the awareness — and joy — of being alive, as often as possible. Obviously, sometimes we immerse ourselves in tasks — pleasurable or unpleasurable — that “we lose ourselves in” for a while. For my mother such immersion is gardening, for me it can be working out a differential equation or a new poem. But I “resurface” to enjoy a meal, enjoy listening to the birds on my hillside, to see the changing of the light, to feel the changing of the temperature and the breeze, to inhale the stars at night, to remember many good times of the past, to eat ice cream, and even to watch the Twilight Zone on TV.

d. This clear awareness (c) equates to being grateful for experiencing life, at the very least when the momentary experience is not one of pain. But even so, the best way to live through pain is to not deny it and try to avoid it, thus setting up a conflict with the external reality of pain pushing on you, and which conflict only adds anxiety and more frustration to the pain you already are experiencing — and that means added pain. Every painful experience comes with a minimum level of pain we must experience, like it or not. So facing this fact is the best we can do: suffering through that minimum (which is not to say it is negligible) realistically rather than trying to deny it and thus causing ourselves to suffer more than the minimum. It’s not fair, it just is.

e. This all means that one should engage in their lives with a positive attitude: do what is in you to do, for the good and for a sense of fulfillment. The details of this depend on the individual and their circumstances. I don’t think of this as a mad rush to check off a bucket list of fantasy treats and entertainments, but instead to apply your mind, body and talents to those activities (creative, kind, socially and psychologically positive, at least harmless) that bring a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment to you. Your life is a gift, a very improbable gift, so use it in a way that does credit to you and justifies the receipt of that gift. For Christians, I refer them to the Parable of the Talents. For folklorists, I remind them of Joseph Campbell’s advice: “Don’t waste time” and “get it done.”

f. My contention is that the more people that live as outlined in “e,” the better the state of the social (and physical) world we all live in at the moment, and therefore that regardless of what happens geophysically and environmentally to that world, we will have a better life than might otherwise be the case under the circumstances. The utopian extreme of this view is that if “everybody” lived the ‘e-life,’ then we would have the best social network for dealing with the physical consequences of global warming climate and environmental degradation, and consequently the best deployment of both warming attenuation responses (e.g., changing our energy systems, that sort of thing) and mitigation strategies (e.g., helping those impacted by droughts, crop losses, inundation, extreme unlivable heat, intelligent applications of technology for social benefit, etc.).

g. Regardless of what everybody else does, or doesn’t do, your life is your responsibility to set right and enjoy as best you can (again, being kind regarding your societal impact). Also, you are just one individual and can hardly take on the whole problem of “fixing the world.” It’s too much, you can’t do it, and trying to will just destroy you. Being the best and happiest “you” (in a clear-eyed knowing way) that you can be is the best contribution you can make to the whole of society, besides being the most personally rewarding way to use the gift of time and consciousness that you have been given by the intriguing randomness of evolution.

So, yes, it is sad that we can see into a future that looks rather grim, and it is difficult to avoid upsetting deniers when we try to speak frankly about the facts we are aware of, and it can be sad to have to “let go” of many youthful illusions about both the continuity of the natural world that hosts us, and about the human networks we are entangled with or which cast us off, but maybe this awareness of and adaptation to reality is not really new. Maybe it has always been true that clear-sighted individuals have always had to navigate their lives through an unstable present and into an uncertain and apparently increasingly hostile future, and that their most honorable and most satisfying course of action was to live up to their potential, as best as they could, for the duration allotted to them.

It should be obvious that all the above is a projection on my part, my “best guess” of how I would like to try to behave if and when I am faced with an existential crisis, a life and death situation. In my own case, the above attitude came to me as a result of dealing with personal crises — which for me were the equivalent to life-and-death — and my application of Zen ideas garnered from much reading. Basically, I extracted ideas from my intellectual storehouse, in times of stress, to find something practical to make passage through hard times bearable.

A person I have corresponded with very recently is an ex-psychotherapist who is dying of cancer, and who wrote: “The only thing that I know is that PEOPLE DONT CHANGE UNTIL THEY FEEL PAIN.”

I agree that people only really question their self-image, and attitudes toward the conduct of their lives, until after having first been gob-smacked by the random and cruel realities of life. One way of rephrasing the above would be:

“Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.”
—Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727),

Newton’s 1st Law of Motion, a.k.a. inertia.

So my conclusion is: live confidently, make the best of it and enjoy it; in that way you add goodness to the world. And, yes, we have to accept that there will be pain and suffering for many many others no matter what, and even despite whatever best efforts we put in to relieve and prevent as much of that pain that the rest of the world will be burdened with. And, this has always been true. This is what I want my children to know and apply in their own lives, because I know that then their lives will be as happy as is possible.

Be aware, be intelligent, be confident, be kind. Life is a gift. And, have fun!

I guess this last is my definition of love.

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Eight Lyrics and a Ramble

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You Touched Us Open

A butterfly surprising me
To grace my palm so I could see
The radiance of life’s sweet smile
Burn through the haze of my ennui
And melt my heart so gratefully
In your redeeming love for me

But I know you’re that kind of grace
That weaves through life at your own pace
So I walk on fear’s sharp knife-edge
To dread unknowns perhaps to be
Within love’s glow of openness
And shadows of a heart greedy

To close you in would crush your glee
With open love you’d float away
To keep you here would kill beauty
My heart will break the day you flee
You’ll wander off as sure you will
Into this world with wonder fill
Sweet butterfly to float so free
Through sunbeams of aged memory

A butterfly surprising me
To grace my palm so I could see
The radiance of life’s sweet smile
Burn through the haze of my ennui
And melt my heart so gratefully
In your redeeming love for me.

I’ll think of you in future times,
Rememb’ring such great love was mine
And grateful to recall just how
You helped me flower into now
You flit to find the nectars sweet
Of every heart you grace to meet

You’ll wander off as sure you will
Into this world with wonder fill
Sweet butterfly to float so free
Through sunbeams of aged memory
Forever linking minds ‘cross time
Sweet visions for those left behind
Our souls infused with peace now see
You touched us open to be free

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Forever and a Day

The opposite of death is love.

Come now sweet darling
Don’t be that way
The world may be changing
Fire ’n ice have their way
But don’t you be fretting
For come here what may
I’ll be your lover
Forever and a day

We’ll shiver in winter
We’ll sweat in the heat
We’ll drink the brown water
We’ll live without meat
Your young skin will toughen
Under hot suns
Your young brow will furrow
As years have their run

We’ll find our right living
Beneath ashen skies
We’ll always be yearning
For young dreams’ reprise
The world’s always changing
Uncertain to be, but
With my arms around you
You’ll always be free.

For our world is burning
Its green hopes lost smoke
As our hearts are learning
To hold strong as oak
The wars will be fearsome
And peace will elude
But love for each other
Will give fortitude

So come now sweet darling
Don’t take on so
Though our world is changing
Our love will grow
And we smiling through
Our sweet time alive
For each we’ll be lovers
Till forever dies

And this world will crumble
Freeze, burn away
Our lives flicker out
Must happen one day
The red suns are burning
The grey moon’s cold hope
Lost children are turning
From fear’s lonely yoke

But fret not my darling
For all things must pass
Yet there is one constant
One thing to last
Despite all the grieving
Our love is so brave
The smiles of whose being
Will live past the grave

We are so lucky
Past mere survival
We can both dream
Of nature’s revival
Mourning the children
Lost in the floods
Whose stilled lives are bubbles
Released in the bud

Memories wistful
And not a lament
Hearts filled with love
And spirits unbent
The loss and the lack
Cannot kill the soul
Where love for another
Has once taken hold

We’ve been so lucky
In this life so graced
Though our world is changing
And we’ll be displaced
Amor y candela
La noche nos daré
Corazones contentos
La vida brillaré

So fret not my darling
For come now what may
I’ll be your lover
Forever and a day
Yes, our world is changing
And our time will pass
But through all the dreading
Our love will last

Come now the winter
Come now the drought
Lost is salvation
Of that there’s no doubt
The fire and the ice
Will each have their way
But through all the changes
Love constant will stay

So don’t you be fretting
Come now what may
You’ll fill my tomorrows
Like my yesterdays
Through all of the changes
One constant will be
That I’ll be your lover
And you will live free

Come now my darling
Send fear away
Though our world is changing
Our love will stay
Don’t you be fretting
Your sweet grace away
We will be loving
Forever and a day

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Soar Hawk Soar

I walked beneath a freeing sky
A soaring hawk wings thoughts up high
The calmed remembrance of old dreams
And clouds aglow in silent streams
That drift on by the mountain peaks
Of stories I will never speak
The light of day unfurling space
Illuminates my winding pace
Unshadowed hills of grit and green
The finest landscapes I have seen
A fading wake of memories
That seep out softly as eddies
All so common and all so mine
Connecting ever each ‘cross time
By light on silent distant themes
Adrift alone on warped time’s seas
Beyond horizons of each one
So mind hawklike soars to the sun
To look to where experience ends
Perhaps to catch a glimpse friends
So very long ago with you
When warmth was shared between us two
Till now forgotten urgencies
Cast us adrift to families
That drew our lives out as we’ve seen
Remote from those that now are keen
As my regards go out so fleet
With hope your journey has been sweet
For mine was good despite the storms
And I survived to now inform
This freeing sky with soaring hawk
And see descending light past dark
To bask so warmly as so true
Reflections burnish life anew.

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Teetering on the Edge

The dead that from us borrow
Are buried in their schemes
The children of tomorrow
Are left without their dreams

We see the steaming kisses
Of fire and the sea
The long bleak shoreline hisses
With all that used to be

The victors celebrating
Within their hoards entombed
Tomorrow wander searching
Beyond bunkers of doom

Below a dusty red sky
From waterless burnt hills
We peer far out and ask why
We let your false pride kill

The air now ghosts of flowers
The sea now grains of grit
The green that once was ours
Our dawn that once was lit

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Your Love Is My Challenge

I must say that “I love you” two hundred times a day
And every single one of them is heartfelt and true
I must say that “I want you,” oh a hundred times too
For every minute every day I so yearn for you
There must be other ways I can show you how I feel
Besides bouquets in hungry hands whispering appeal
What more can I you offer, and what else to accept?
How can my art and passion grow much more love for you?
Can I ever open up the mystery of time?
So you can ramble through the weave of your dreaming lives
Can I hope to lead you back into that hidden spring?
Trembling in that flow until we melt into the light
You touched me and I came alive so reborn with you
Now I open up this world so your love flowers through
I rise to meet the challenge of championing your love
With open heart ’n spirit full my vision clears to you

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Looking Back I See

I could’ov lived a poet’s life
And rove throughout my world of dreams
But wives ’n kids would not’ov stood
For unplowed rows ’n nights unseen
Hitched-up horses ’n dogs on leash
Give comfort more than mottled gleams
Of moonlight shadow rippling ‘cross
Wild tomcat’s wandering night screams

My ignorance as longing’s fear
Threw chains o’r artist caperings
With love and safety held so dear
One’s spring and sparkle cooled and stilled
For unburnt candles casts no light
Nor wax-drip sears the hands it’s held
But blaming others I cannot
For all my grasping at the wind
To root unlikely chance to ground
As time invisibly slipped by

When freedom’s moored to throbbing life
It’s owning choices one has made
Both all the triumphs and regrets
The breath and beating heart passed through
That stream of all life’s incidents
Of thoughtless words and wordless thoughts
The rising smoke in nights forgot
The mist burned clears oblivion’s light

Trust can be a rock secure as
Happiness so sweet drifts by
Each man’s an island on his own
Each woman is all hurried seas
The randomness of time and tide
Lap eddies onto shores of mind
A poet’s life must always be
Lost starlight glinting on the sea
Harmonic chaos elegant
Is understanding clarified

Money is all evils’ flower,
And evil is all money’s root
Commodifying, life’s reduced
To lowest cost priced highestmost
In great lovelorn America
Misled by those who’d make you see
The poetry in guillotines
Why weaken truth, dull clarity
Placating insecurity?

Poetic thought dissolves at last
In old hens’ prattling done and drowned,
So Dylan Thomas died one night
From swelling of the brain infused
And so doth booze insight expand
The oft crabbed musing consciousness
A failure I would bound to be
If questing life eternally,
But be assured this won’t be so
For I’ll be free curmudgeonly

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Mister Yes-Know and Mistress No-No

People live, people die
People laugh, people cry
People love, people lie
People lose, people fly

Don’t say what I don’t want to hear
Don’t do what I don’t want to see
Don’t think what I don’t want to know
Don’t feel what I don’t want to be

Passive-aggressive mister co-dependent
Obsessive-compulsive mistress unrepentant
Acute anticipatory anxiety ascendant,
A mystery inevitably uncomprehended

Sometimes my art is of quality high
Sometimes my art is of quality low
However it crosses the public eye
I’m always delighted, I love it so

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Coiling Oak Smoke

Dewdrop jewels on the berries of spring
Golden grain waves in the fresh wind that brings
Crystal fresh rains that wells once again fills
And moistens the fields, the woods and the hills
Vibrant green shoots coat with radiance our land
Nature’s benev’lence again is at hand
Clear light infuses warm breath through the trees
Dispelling the mists by dawning degrees

Our gardens now lush emerge from shadow
Birds rustle and flit by rivulets low
Mayhaps our boatmen will hook us some fish
To grill tonight for a savory dish
Maybe our cider cooled down in the creek
Will loosen spirits to merriment seek
Round the oak fire that pulls us all in
As our tribe of foundlings now becomes kin

Let the young children seek sparkly rocks
Treasures and playthings their dreams to unlock
Delighting in games with imagined friends
Out in the clearings and where the beach ends
Hiding and seeking and scurrying ‘round
Learning each corner of our tribal ground
While we tend to patching houses and clothes
To keep out the rains and cold wintery blows

In afternoon balm I’ll auger flute-holes
And string my guitar to serenade those
Who ring round the fire as dusk closes in
As we rim the warmth that centers our being
And I might think back to times long ago
When my world froze up and melted like snow
And then burnt away in long hopeless wars
When all that I was became nothing more

We each disappeared into private ends
Abandoned alone by fate and by friends
Emerging alive by luck some would say
Finding each other by chance day by day
Intimate strangers now braided as tribe
Castaways now on this earth that abides
Each guarding mem’ries of those that they lost
Each guarding a soul or’whelmed by grief’s cost

Tomorrow I take Young Buck up the hill
To teach him the bow and of deers to kill
We’ll seek cedar stalks to make arrow shafts
Talk about fletching and archery crafts
To ready ourselves for hunting to come
When fall chills the days and fog shrouds the sun
In time he’ll move off with borns of his own
As I once had before being alone

When young Buck’s become the man he must be
I will be feeding my gone away tree
Returning my spirit to these deep woods
Content I suppose I did what I could
We old men and women work so to fill
Young bellies with food and young lives fulfill
With savory scents coiled up in oak smoke
That bind us together as tribal folk.

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Night and Day, Being and Nonbeing

Matter, energy, space and time: the entirety of physical existence. Einstein unravelled their truth: they are all entwined, a four dimensional yin-yang, the image of gravity. But, what gave him pause that he could never fully overcome was the yin-yang of existence and nonexistence: quantum reality. And that is what we live within and are: matter, energy, space and time, existence and nonexistence, flickering on and off in rhythms seen and unseen, known and unknown, felt and unfelt. And consciousness, like gravity, is manifest through that dazzle while itself untouchable — a void — infused deep within us, the motivating core, the suns of our solar systems of individual being: life.

I step outside my warm bubble of house-air into the cool fresh oceanic night, which sucks my awareness out to the farthest reaches of its fathomless inky blue-black vacuum, punctuated by pinpricks of light beyond the frontiers of experience, whose inverted depths are a dark crystalline silence, the infinitely dissolved horizon past the tenuous haze of our shared breaths with green life lush with the fragrance of August flowers eddying through the living tangle of Earth’s surface in my forested canyon laden with ancient expirations cooled and moistened to sparkling renewal.

This velvety opaque transparency pulses with drones by crickets and unfolds unseeable vistas of distant sound whose tides are brought near, washing resonantly through me and absorbing me into the totality of this timeless sequence of unthinking scintillating instants, pinpricks of existence flashing out of an eternal sea of nonexistence like glints of moonlight on ripples of a four-dimensional ocean, the unbounded immersion.

I breathe in my share of this pregnant unconscious and sense the capture of two or three molecules released millennia ago in the funeral pyre of that great poet’s expended form, its brief journey of genetic transport finished as mine will soon enough be, and I embed that molecular poetry into my blood and sinews until its time for release comes with my organic disintegration into pure fleeting memory. Coyotes howl with bell-like clarity through the dark effulgence, and my moments of eternity come to rest for this night. So, I turn into my house-bubble for sleep.

Dawn fog in the canyon: I am looking at the sun just rise over the crest of the ridge, and light pour through the fog into the canyon, making it glow as it flows up the stream-bed and through the trees along the hillsides, with blue sky above, and birds darting through the panorama framed by my vision, the warmth of the rays descending into my body as I face before it, immersed in a cloud of light, evaporating. A bird chirps. Mist rises. The ground of the forest lights up. Leaves emerge glistening green from their silhouettes. The voices of the forest call to each other, silence fades into the light of day. Rebirth. I am who am once again.

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21 December 2019

We Were Young

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We Were Young

We were young when we first met
Many illusions I had then,
Many hopes and many fears
Many hidden lonely tears

We were company back then
While we chased our separate dreams
Vibrant feeling to be alive
Feeling powerful just to strive

After long time separate lives
I find you always on my mind
A true companion for last years
When memory replaces fears

Why so blind in frantic youth
Not to see you’re such a friend?
How could I miss such sterling truth
Even up to the very end?

Why did I fail to realize
What was there before my eyes
And not appreciate that ray
That chance had gifted in my way?

I the fool ran after phantoms
That always vanished from my grasp
Diving through illusions fathoms
Desires fading in my clasp

Looking back now I see the real
The solid and dependable
For an honest soul to feel
For pride subdued, and calm mind humbled

Young eyes dazzled by hope’s desire
Made invisible what I prize now
As rushing by in youthful fire
Through time I ripped, a steely plow

And to what? I must suppose
A mindless life-thrust seeking renewal
Another gamete that to fossil goes
With luck ere dusting to see life’s jewel

Now a spent husk I look back, review
What wisdom gained o’er this interlude
Savoring what from birth imbued:
A life fulfilled feels gratitude

Regrets too ancient to redeem the past,
Leave naught to salvage from but this
Our love and kindness given once may last
In forgotten lives which now we miss

That warmth sustains me and it stays
The sunlight of these dawnings days
It is beyond all I could say,
Sweet thoughts of youth’s unfolding play

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Ashes Stirred Into Light

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Ashes Stirred Into Light

The birds are quiet, where are they?
One small brown oakleaf spins suspended in spider-silk
In the stillness of a dried sage bush.
The rising sunset dawns soft orange splotches
Slanting onto crunchy dun-colored forest ground
Fading into a wider illumination of dead still pale yellow
As the few orphaned drops on the window
From last night’s moment of sparse rain
Evaporate invisibly into the slaty haze,
The cold smell of burnt distance in the air.
There are fires many ridgecrests away
And all are holding their breaths with vacancy
In this dried-out sculpture of a world
With all its filigrees dressed in muted tones
Of green and straw and brown, glintless.

24 August 2020

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