Archive for the ‘The world today’ Category

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On farming …

January 12, 2016

and covering your donkey ….

There was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.

“Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

So it is with our lives… Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all…

 

[That little story was swiped from Facebook without permission, ……………..what?…..]  

 

Everyone (I suppose) loves a “feel-good” story. Like any story, of course, when told around the campfire often enough, and for an extended time, the details cannot help but change.

This is not by any design or intent. Perhaps the greatest reason would be context. Another would be the nature of human communication or language itself.

“Watching a buddy’s back”, for example, is kind of a nice metaphor for friendship, teamwork, and so forth. The precise meaning depends upon context. One might safely assume that the concept was first given voice during some primitive confrontation somewhere, sometime, and when used in that same context even today could be taken quite literally, indicating concerns regarding survival. The intent and meaning today, however, is normally a mixed bag of the literal and the metaphorical. While the circumstance surrounding the phrase’s use may be metaphorical, and would be considered an exaggeration of the mood accompanying a literal context, the intent would be to lend precisely that kind of intensity to a more benign situation.

The study of philology, or the history and origins of words and phrases, may provide some insight.

An immeasurable and indistinct length of time ago, one of humanity’s primary concerns was survival. If a person should survive into the following day, he would then focus on water, and food. Thirst and hunger abated, or at least temporarily distracted, things like shelter and clothing, such as it were, could see daylight. Extensively changed, often beyond recognition, and certainly beyond any imaginable context for most of us, much of our modern communication could likely be linked to those times long before car payments and credit limits and matters of “style” became the first things one thought of upon awakening in a comfortable bed to the aroma of automatically perked coffee.

Thus, I would suggest that the warm-fuzzy tale of a farmer and his fields of corn must bear such a history, its origins lost among the multitude of lessons of survival no doubt learned through observing the experiences of those who didn’t survive to tell the tales.

As mentioned earlier, contexts change, as do intents, though function may remain related. The path of human development and evolution evidently favored those who gathered into groups and coined such strokes of genius as “safety in numbers,” just as they favored those who ate organic material instead of pretty rocks.

Several hundred contexts later, with countless factors added to, or subtracted from, the pile, such allegories as the corn farmer tale came to be part and parcel of various religious tenets. As is often the case, “points” are made, in more ways than one, by the use of exaggeration, overstatement, and the clouding of boundaries between contexts, so that survival of the group transitioned to survival within the group, and so on. Securing enough points to earn whatever the promised rewards might be meant following the tenets of one’s inherited or chosen creed better than one’s neighbor, who, ironically, one was also often charged with ensuring the welfare of. Sometimes that meant giving your best seed to the farmer down the road.

Presently, early in the twenty first century, the evolving metaphor has come to link salvation, in its various formats, with providing for the survival of imperfect strangers through the provision of metaphorical as well as actual Free Lunch, Potlatch style.

And similar to the tale of the fortunate farmer (and his even more fortunate neighbors, who apparently enjoyed the products of his labor), seeing to the welfare and good fortune of one’s neighbors, even if it means conscripting the assets and unwitting participation of The Unwashed, may very well be about taking care of one’s own backside far more than that of one’s neighbor.

 

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about reality…

March 28, 2013

in a world of ones and zeros….

Who knew? Big Brother may turn out to be our own children! It is they, after all, who have grown up in the age of technology. They live, learn, love, work and play in a “Normal” made up of ones and zeros. It is a dimension where, regardless of skill and understanding, their elders are mere tourists for the most part.

We opened our eyes upon a non-digital universe. We have lived, learned, loved, worked in and played in a physical environment. That is the “Normal” for most of us, perhaps to some degree, even those who invented and created the cyber universe in the first place. As with those who learn secondary languages fluently, it’s about more than just a residual accent, it’s about the culture as well.

I am uncomfortable with what appears to me as an erosion or failure of boundaries, but what in fact is most likely a redefinition of them. I don’t like the interconnectedness of everything that I feel is mandated and initiated on my behalf by Google and others, with or without my knowledge and consent, by the very elementary act of turning on a computer or some mobile communication device. Cameras watch streets, doorways, and public buildings. Unknown people in unknown locations accumulate detailed digital records of where people go and what they do, their wealth and what the do with it, and statisticians analyze the data to establish probability scales to predict what people will or will not do. Non-existent people decide what I should like to read, eat, wear, or do with my spare time, all on the basis of keystrokes and data analysis. The Digital Generation neither minds this near-BORG existence nor seems to understand why anyone would object to it.

Thus, while it was the elder generation that conceived of the fictional Big Brother of George Orwell’s 1984, our amused relief when that year came and went was premature. It was left for our children to make it a reality.

 

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forgive me, for I have punned…

March 13, 2013

The Cardinals were taking so long to select a new pontiff that people were beginning to wonder if they might be too pooped to pope………..

 

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Letting go……

March 10, 2013

of smooching the glutes of humanity’s knuckle draggers….

Every parent knows that one of the hardest things to do is to let go. In fact, parents don’t have a franchise on that very human resistance to change, but it may be the easiest to identify with for most people. People cry when their toddler takes his first step. We like to call them “tears of joy”, but, in truth there is sadness in them as well. There is a grieving of the never-to-be-seen-again infancy.

Sometimes, resistance to change isn’t that romantic and just represents bull headedness, or is a case of sticking with the admittedly dysfunctional M.O. instead of risking the highly likely to be more functional but scary UNKNOWN.

I was thinking about that this morning after I read an Op-Ed piece in the Sunday paper. Of course, so much these days is about the surplus of debt and the shortfall of income. It seems as if just about everybody has an opinion, just about nobody has a solution, and those who do are shouted down as “idiots” by those who don’t. I’m guilty. I admit it.

The quibbler in me strains to break free, however, and throw my non-committal “observations” out there like a slab of bloody meat tossed to the lions for them to hiss and slap over.

It occurs to me that letting go and grieving are processes not limited to individuals. Families do it, communities do it, and by extension, nations do it. Yet, as the world and the circumstances it experiences change, we resist certain changes within our own way of doing business.

The editorial column was in response to a collective question rumbling in the background for so many:

If we are so broke, why do we continue to give away billions to countries that don’t even like us?

Our new Secretary of State John Kerry, for example, just made a bee-line to Egypt where he pirouetted and sprinkled a quarter of a million scented US Rose Petals at the feet of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization of zealots who pray five times a day for their benefactors to drop dead.

Our international circumstances today are ridiculously similar to the stage upon which the Barbary Wars of our earliest years as an independent nation were spawned, with the notable exception that some 215 years later we are a formidable world power rather than the skinny new kid on the block. We have grown in so many ways, but in others have not. The Muslim extremists of the Middle East haven’t changed a bit, on the other hand. They still use their Holy Book to justify virtually any barbaric sub-human act they wish to commit on the grounds that they are Licensed to Kill, by Allah himself, anybody on the planet who does not do exactly as they are told by the honchos of the religion. Kind of like the Mafia.

So, I ask, why are we still paying tribute to keep the animals happy? People LOVE their dogs, yet don’t pamper them as much as America pampers her foes. The strongest argument anyone seems capable of piecing together as justification for this bizarre behavior, including the ordinarily erudite columnist, is that, if we don’t continue, “it could be worse” .

How do I say this in language that would be permissible in the average elementary classroom? I can’t. Sequester the kids in the gymnasium while I let it fly in the janitor’s closet or something.

We used to have an inspiring little jingle that started off: “From the Halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli…..” , and the last I knew it was still in the Top Forty, …..but our actions tend to suggest the lyrics may have been tweaked a bit.

I think it’s time we made a conscious decision to LET GO of our old habit of buying friends and work on improving the way we practice the principles we have come to rattle off with the emotional investment of a ten year old obediently reciting the times tables or the parts of speech.

It would be NICE if the Grand Poohbah of Habhoop would marry only one wife, she at least being older than twelve, and stop abusing his trained snakes, blowing up our real estate, and generally being a global pain in the ass. Kissing stern sheets of our antagonists didn’t work 215 years ago and it isn’t working today. Tomorrow isn’t looking too hot, either.

I don’t know about you, but if my kids acted like that, I’d take away their allowance…..not RAISE IT and beg them to accept more.

 

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Unfortunate metaphor #792…..

December 1, 2012

yet, not without merit….

The key to World Peace and Harmony would be for everyone to stop practicing Cultural Proctology, but since we’re evidently hard-wired to so practice, the best bet is to cover your butt.
 

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Homo Sapiens Dumbputz….

November 12, 2012

I suppose it was inevitable ….

As life unfolded before me, I found myself being the target of a considerable amount of information conveyed with varying levels of urgency. The fundamentals, of course, included hints to prevent (or at least postpone) me from breaking my neck, guidelines for keeping me from providing motivation to someone else for breaking my neck for me, and the usual shtick about how to get into Heaven instead of That Other Place.

The rest of the emphasis was more directed towards commercial and social interests, sort of like it is today, but with some significant differences. For example, when I was a kid, the advertisements in print, on the radio, and then on that new TV thing, usually involved some lady in an apron holding up a box of laundry soap, or a cowboy sucking on the ONLY cigarette one should consider in order to guarantee being on the “A List” instead of wasting away in the basement of life choking down the equivalent of yard waste. If you could inhale the guts of a Camel or a Lucky Strike without throwing up, getting a nose bleed, or passing out, you were right up there with John Wayne and every other hairy chested hero, even if you were only twelve and your testicles hadn’t descended yet.

Thus, by the time I fell into the adult phase of my life cycle I was pretty well indoctrinated regarding the best laundry soaps, tobacco products, booze, breakfast cereals, and the cars most capable of peeling the rear tires off right down to the rims before hitting second gear. We had also been “educated” about which of the dozen or so flavors of nineteen cents per gallon gasoline was the next best thing to Jesus Christ in liquid form when it came to performing miracles. I had become immune to the sharp edges of Lucky Strikes by my mid-teens, but settled on Winston as my chosen path to COPD, except when doing scratch and spit stuff with “the guys” under which circumstances King of the Mountain stature depended being able to smoke what most nearly approached the equivalent of dog shit rolled up in yesterday’s newspaper without flinching.

*****

Half a C-note later, the couple of generations following in my footsteps, or more likely trying desperately to avoid doing so, have met a significantly different gauntlet to run between the highchair days and the dénouement of high school. Unbelievable, it is; and astronomically expensive in more currencies than just money.

Speaking of money, we didn’t really have any, comparatively speaking. That’s not a whine. It’s just the way it was, but despite any sense of deprivation we might have laid claim to from time to time, we did fine. Oh, there were the few privileged kids from the preferable side of the tracks who always had the latest styles and either drove Daddy’s convertible or got their own for a birthday present. Most of us, however, lived a more terrestrial existence and managed very well. If I needed money, I mowed a lawn, raked leaves, or shoveled snow for a few dollars. Interpret the word “few” literally. Nevertheless, it usually was enough. When I got my first part time job, at fourteen, the pay was a dollar an hour. Occasionally, there were adolescent incidents of petty crime, but that’s another story for another time.

I wonder, as I suppose every generation has in its seniority, about what fates will befall those just now discovering that they have some wild oats, and that it might be interesting to sow a few.

Life is notably more complex now, of course, for a number of reasons, including changes in the social, economic, technological, and environmental milieu. Two or more cars per household constitute the norm now, rather than being an exception reserved for the privileged strata. Heck, two or more bathrooms are now the norm as well, for that matter. We generally have more, at a glance making even a comfortable life in the fifties or sixties appear Spartan by comparison. I’m not saying they were the “good old days”, by any means. We had “junk” then, too. We just have a hell of a lot more of it now. Poverty then meant not having shoes; today it means not having designer shoes. We compensate for non-designer shoes today by owning a dozen pair of Chinese Cheapos from WallyWorld. When the laces get dirty, you throw the shoes away and buy a new pair. Tomorrow’s billionaires are the people buying up overstuffed landfills today. Someday, technology will enable them to make a lot of money from all of that crap.

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Television is a major precipitant to eye-rolling, yawns, and multilingual profanity around our house. I suspect TV isn’t long for this world, since multiple forms of communication and entertainment seem to be morphing towards a single source computer-based format, but between now and then the venue merits commentary. In spite of being a relative newbie in the grand scheme of things, television must be in its death throes anyway because it has become so ludicrous. “Humor” is now exemplified by hour-long time slots stuffed with videos of people tripping on obstacles, running into trees or random posts, falling down stairs, and other such fare, most likely staged or sneaked without the victim’s knowledge, with an occasional clip that was obtained through the genuine serendipity of just being in the right place at the right time, with camera in hand, when someone else just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Its the logical outgrowth of what I caricatured as the America’s Funniest Disembowelment fascination but a few years ago. We don’t just chuckle at the occasional mishap, though. We hunt humiliation and near death experiences down, facilitate them, sometimes outright cause them, and then kick back with a bag of chips and guffaw at the misfortunes and injuries of others. Some of it is pretty low rent, in my opinion, and practically elevates early Jerry Springer stuff to Top Shelf status. If you had a rival Olympic skater’s knees whacked to give your self an edge, or if you know George Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words by heart, you, too, can have a prime-time Laugh-a-Long.

The latest fad, already beginning to wrinkle as the next inane concept approaches the horizon, has been the farcically titled “REALITY” show. The only thing “real” about that fare is the fact that they “really” have a camera on site to record idiots doing the idiotic.

About every ten minutes, even in the case of the most unembellished of documentaries, the viewer is subjected to 8 or more “commercials”, the majority of them yakking up twenty first century over-the-counter versions of the Snake-Oil of yore, or some pharmaceutical product for one of an endless list of real or imagined maladies. The latter instruct one to educate one’s physician about the spotlighted drug, and to insist upon being given a prescription for it, even after having listened to a long string of potential misfortunes that would make Hannibal Lechter faint.

I find these commercials both hilarious and annoying. First of all, anyone who actually needs all of that shit is probably dead anyway, so their loved ones should just bury the remains and save a bundle of money that might otherwise be squandered on pointless therapies. The latest model of the human species has been in production, and has developed, for anywhere from 6,000 to 600,000 years, depending upon one’s brain size and source of information, and best of all, 99% of either figure has been accomplished without ANY of the junk being hawked as critical to the continuance of life. People must buy it though, because they keep on selling it. Go figure.

On that note, let’s clarify something. I go to my doctor so he can tell me what’s wrong, and what I can do about it, not the other way around. He spent at least twelve more years in college than I did, and I presume his grades were far better than mine, especially in the sciences. He gets paid $120 to let me sit in a room with year old women’s magazines until 9:15 for an 8:45 appointment. When he arrives, I fart, say “ah”, and he leaves. Usually, I feel better. If I have to self-diagnose and teach him biochemistry and pharmacology, he’s going to have to pay ME $120. Make that $150.

Among the most ridiculous of the ads are those for Viagra and Cialis. You know, the endless skits showing potential NFL first draft candidates giving the sneaky-peeky to their personal Playboy Centerfold units before they go sit in twinsie bath tubs out in a field. Gimme a break. Men twice their age can still carry a towel to the shower, no hands. Was there a nuclear accident we never heard about? Is the younger generation doomed to flaccid extinction?

I don’t make light of what is a very real medical issue for some people. I just don’t think the problem, or its alleged miracle cure, require equal time with soft drinks, breakfast cereals, and GM vehicles. I mean, I’m all for equity and fairness and all of that stuff, but after nearly fifty years of learning progressively more and more about the needs of female nether regions, the thought of a half century tit for tat (or visa versa) riposté regarding the male junkyard is a bit scary.

So, the general population is addicted to the “idiot box” and its kin, and in spite of some of our remarkable achievements such as putting a man on the moon, inventing artificial body parts, and countless real-life manifestations of stuff even Captain Kirk thought were just fun things to dream about, we seem to be slipping into a state of cow-eyed stupidity while our descendants’ DNA mutates toward eventually providing some sort of biological USB outlets.

 

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…about having cake and eating it too…

October 24, 2012

I’m curious…..

Why is it NOT okay to differentiate between a union of opposite sexed people and a union of same sexed people, but it IS okay to differentiate between same-sexed relationships of men and those of women? …..

 

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