Saturday, March 29, 2014

will the wealthy take down the titanic?


okay, i admit it, i keep whistling as i pass the graveyard, telling myself, don't project your own decay on the world. i've experienced many a retired professor doing it. it's natural to assume the world can't exist without me. alas, i'm pretty sure this is true! doggone it, i try to be more humble. after all, i'd like to help other people, especially the young, survive to enjoy tubing on the river and petting under the apple trees. it's not right for me to drag down the world with me, but what can i do?

we (I) have lived through the most affluent civilization the human world has ever seen. today, picking up soap and fruit-juice at a wholesale warehouse, i watched all the loaded carts lumbering toward the exit, parents, children, the old, tagging along behind. and the expensive cars being loaded up in the parking-lot! yes, one of those days of clarity when my eyes opened. the earth is being mined for all this stuff. and an amazing amount of it will go into storage.

or on the trash heap. i'm chagrined by how much garbage i discard every day. even with recycling a bit of it, my conscience isn't clean. and yet, and yet, i remember belgrade in the sixties and st. petersberg and moscow in january of 1992. the bleakness of streets without billboards, the somber dress of the ladies without fashion, listening to my hosts whispering about smuggling razor-blades out of the west. the alternative offered disheartening, to say the least. 

along with this incredible abundance, i can feel, here in the middle of the ship, the top deck getting heavy, a little bit of listing already occurring. no, it's not a surplus of people, rather diamonds and gold cigar-lighters, a glass of whiskey costing a hundred dollars and downed without a thought. the staterooms filling up with the smug. 

oddly, i don't see this as a political issue, rather one of science, and i regret the loss of all the gains in learning, craft, the arts. a character in chekhov's 'cherry orchard' says, i'm in mourning for my life. in my case i have to say, i'm in mourning for the young. no wonder they clutch their cell phones like worry-beads, like rosaries, like pieces of the true cross. in 'the wasteland' eliot writes, i will show you fear in a handful of dust. 

as i say, i'm trying not to relish the thought the world we know may go down with me, as exciting a consolation as that is. and i have to remember, all prophesies for the future have proved wrong. the black swans keep flying and none of us know when they will choose to land. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

looks like the end of the world began in 1981

NASA Study Concludes When Civilization Will End, And It's Not Looking Good for Us

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NASA Study Concludes When Civilization Will End, And It's Not Looking Good for Us
Image Credit: AP

Analyzing five risk factors 

for societal collapse (population, 

climate, water, agriculture and 

energy), the report says that 

the sudden downfall of complicated 

societal structures can follow

when these factors converge 

to form two important criteria. 

Motesharrei's report says that 

all societal collapses over 

the past 5,000 years have 

involved both "the stretching 

of resources due to the strain 

placed on the ecological 

carrying capacity" and "the 

economic stratification of 

society into Elites [rich] 

and Masses (or "Commoners") 

[poor]." This "Elite" population 

restricts the flow of resources 

accessible to the "Masses", 

accumulating a surplus 

for themselves that is high 

enough to strain natural 

resources. Eventually this 

situation will inevitably 

result in the destruction of society.

Elite power, the report

 suggests, will buffer 

"detrimental effects of the 

environmental collapse 

until much later than the 

Commoners," allowing 

the privileged to "continue 

'business as usual' despite 

the impending catastrophe."

Science will surely save us, 

the nay-sayers may yell. 

But technology, argues Motesharrei, 

has only damned us further...

read the whole article: 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

what are you saving yourself for?

a friend asked me that question forty years ago. i didn't have an answer then, and i don't now. he implied, of course, i should lead a life as chaotic and wild as his own. hmm, i knew one thing though, you cannot do in old age what you had to do young. 

memories of adventures in 40 countries, 3 years in new york city, too many love-affairs to be proud of, plague me, pop into my mind: a street-corner in india, a lock of hair in greece, the smell of sauerkraut in germany. what am i yearning for? infinite time, the carelessness of jumping on trains or boats, throwing myself into theater improvisations.

improv, that's the key, a life of leaping  out of windows and into beds, landing on my feet or backside. unfortunately, no adventure tempts me into the foolishness of trying to repeat it. and last winter, agonizing over what to do once fire-season done, i had a very strong feeling. sit at my desk, write, read, cruise on the computer. and so, the next days off, i found a little cottage to rent.

despite enjoying myself, and with spring bursting out in town, almond blossoms everywhere, i still think, "time is passing. what haven't i done? and the answer always comes back, if you don't want to make the journey, the destination meaningless.yes, i always listen to that little train-engine in my brain. and these days it likes loafing by the station and watching the roses pop out.

for i did my 'life-time goals' exercise last week, three lists: five years, one year, and six months to live. the first came out as expected: travel, friends, nature. ah-hah, the third, however, shocked me. if i'd only a few months to go, i'd simply like to lay in the grass, feel the sunlight, walk in the woods and cities too, soaking up the sensations of the earth. alas, i've never been a sensualist. maybe it's not too late?

this made more poignant by the stroke a much younger friend experienced four years ago. once home again, he didn't recognize his own family. the intellectuals at the university with whom he'd worked interested him not at all. a writer, the devastation in his left brain, the home of language. now he had strong likes and dislikes, loved food like a child, and lives in a home with three-hundred seniors, dancing and being accepted for who he's become.

as somebody who's lived on the left, despite many attempts at pleasure, i'm even a bit envious of my friend. he's a new person who has left the intellectual life behind and lives more in his physical body. i wouldn't trade, yet there's a appeal, the taste of a second life. the only bad part: i might experience this, but not as the person i was. that new opportunity erased by the fact i couldn't know it was new. 

i must have saved myself for this, spring sunlight streaming in the door, this tasty cup of oolong tea (supposed to keep the chinese from heart-attacks), the paper from the doctor lying on the table, proving the cholesterol medicine working. i do have the urge to make something of it all. all i can make of it is this.