Archive for May, 2016

Contributing to the common good

2016/05/26

When I get home from work, I like to feel that what I did today has, in some way, contributed to the common good.  By putting my energy into the things that I do, beyond merely doing the minimum  necessary to get the job done, I add a little bit to the turning of the wheel.  Putting a flourish on project, being a craftsman instead of just a worker, using knowledge and skill to get a little bit more done, these are ways of finding pride in what I do.

So many people do not find happiness in their work, merely drudgery, boredom, and frustration.  Often times this is because they are not allowed to work in ways that are creative and rewarding, but instead must perform mindless tasks, or work with poor materials and tools.  A poorly trained team member can affect the work of the whole team, especially if that team cannot slow down and explain things because the demand for productivity is extremely high.

Corporations are complaining because productivity has quit increasing dramatically like it did for about 20 years.  That was when computers and automation were being introduced into many fields.  Productivity doubled several times, but the workers saw none of the benefits of their improved efforts. The shareholders and the executives seem to be the only ones who profited from all the increased production.  There is little incentive to work harder, improve methods, or rally others’ morale when you know that there will be no improvement in your situation, and the overall community is not benefiting from your efforts.

Advertisements

Wrong time for remembering the dead

2016/05/26

Memorial Day is supposed to be a time for remembering the dead, the soldiers and sailors who perished in war.  Yet, this is the beginning of Summer, the celebration of Life, fertility, abundance.  This is but one of many aspects of modern society which is out of sync with ancient beliefs.  Autumn is the time of remembrance, of celebrating Death.  For we are celebrating the sacrifice made so that Life can continue.

Personally, I oppose holding war up to be an honorable or enviable pursuit, but I volunteered to serve in the military, because I felt that I owed my country something.  It was a way of expressing my belief that the whole is greater than its parts, and that the community is more important than the individual.  This was a given, up until the development of agriculture, I believe, because the group was so essential to the survival of the individual.  Agriculture started the thinking of being separate from Nature, not a part of the greater Life Force.  Nature became the Adversary, the thief which stole crops by freezing, or drought, or flooding, or some such.  As we became divided from the rest of the living things, we started to think in terms of ‘Me’, ‘Mine’, ‘I’, instead of ‘ours’, ‘we’, ‘us’.  We became territorial, willing to fight to hold certain ground.  War began to sweep the world.

Yes, sacrifices should be remembered, but we should not idolize the dead for their participation in the madness of war.  Nor should we idolize the military, as is often done with parades and demonstrations.  We should hope that no more lives will be wasted trying to destroy ourselves.

Children raising children

2016/05/22

A recent expose’ by the New York Times examines the fallout from the heroin fad in America; children being raised by grandparents. (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/05/05/us/grandparents-heroin-impact-kids.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fus&action=click&contentCollection=us&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront)  This is an example of what used to be normal now being news.

For most of human history, children have not been raised by their parents, I believe.  The primary child raising was done by the elders of the group, including grandparents, aunts, cousins, and even good friends.  Parents were too busy working in support of the group, as they were the most able-bodied, skilled people.  With help from the older children, even immobile elders could supervise the nurturing of the youngest children.  There were always people with time on their hands who could look after the kids, because carrying water, finding fuel, gathering, harvesting, sowing, fishing, preparing clothing, all these and more were the province of the parents.

One of the reasons that I am convinced of this is that humans seem to have evolved in such a way that child rearing is very important to an older, elderly person, yet people of child-bearing age often are more interested in their own lives.  Also, very young children have been shown to be anxious to please elderly, frail people.  But the maturity to put aside one’s own tasks in order to address a child’s needs  comes slowly.  When we can no longer set tasks for ourselves, or must limit our tasks to just a few, then we find the time for the children, for the future.  Could this be a survival trait, evolution programming us for the roles we play as we age?  I think so.

For very young children, I am convinced that close interactions with elders are essential to the child developing a sense of self-worth.  Young parents can unknowingly damage a child’s self-esteem by repeatedly denying the child attention and affirmation.  “I’m busy”, or “In a little bit”, comes too easily to a parents voice, especially considering that the young child lives in the ‘now’, where ‘later’ is meaningless.  Our elder years are not meant to be focused on ourselves, consumed with finding ‘something to do’.  Spending time with the children is our reward for the sacrifices and toil that we have invested in the welfare of the group.

 

 

Car trains

2016/05/20

Would you be more inclined to travel by train if you could take your car?  Just imagine:  No airport security hassles to undergo, no cramped seat to torture you, and no rental agency to deal with.  Just drive your car onto the train, take what bags you need for the train trip, and lock up the car.  You arrive at your destination relaxed, refreshed, and ready to learn how the locals drive.

Between security delays, overbooking of flights, and the ‘take ’em for all their worth’ attitude of the airlines, rail travel seems positively inviting.  If you want to walk around, go right ahead.  If you want a few drinks, go ahead.  And train technology is advancing rapidly, so trains will be able to travel much faster soon.

The steel wheel on the steel rail is still the most efficient way to move mass over land, while the airplane is the most inefficient way there is.  And trains are so much more enjoyable than planes.  Whoever said ‘getting there is half the fun’ hasn’t flown commercial airlines recently!

Moonlight and darkness

2016/05/20

Was just out walking in the moonlight, and thinking about how different things look when the power is out.  We take electricity for granted in the U.S., and outages are rare.  But I have experienced a wide-spread outage a couple of times, and it is amazing how dark it gets.  Suddenly, a flashlight can be seen a kilometer away, and headlights are visible across the valley.  On a night when the moon is casting distinct shadows, like tonight, a person can walk around outside fairly easily.  But on a moonless or overcast night, the terrain is invisible, and stumbling about is common.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself that there are large parts of the world where electricity is rare, or completely absent, and many places that do have electricity only have it for certain hours of the day.  Having the power on 24/7 is a luxury, not a right, and we are unaware of the people and infrastructure that bring it to us.  Yet, the power is often one of the first utilities that gets back in service after a disaster.  Lineman from all over the country will respond to widespread outages, such as what an ice storm can cause.  Although I wish that there was less light pollution, because I enjoy looking at the stars, I think electricity is wonderful.

We are family

2016/05/18

Some time ago, I heard the expression ‘the family of Man’.  Seems to me that we need to act more like friends than family, at least the way a lot of families that I know behave.  But the sentiment is still there, that we are all related, that we all belong, that being human is something that we have in common with other people.  Focusing on our differences makes it harder to win compromise, to find agreement, to get along.  No matter how different we are, we need each other, our various skills, strengths, and experiences.  We all have something to contribute.

When disaster strikes, when things break down, or go up in flames, or start acting strangely, we need each other.  Alone, we are nothing, no matter much money we have, how much land we own, how big and nasty we are.  Alone, everything that we have done will be lost, forgotten.  Together, memories are passed on, knowledge is preserved, inventions perfected.  Our contribution will be important, somehow.

Climate warming, or global change?

2016/05/06

Was out for a walk a little while ago, and I heard crickets chirping, which is rather unusual in early May where I live.  Used to be, I wouldn’t hear crickets until mid-July, and I have always associated them with late summer around here.  To be chirping now, the crickets must have hatched out over a month ago, if I remember correctly.  Last year, I heard crickets in mid-May, and we had the warmest year on record here.

In many cases, the warmer temps are at night, when things don’t cool off like they used to.  Instead of overnight lows in the upper 30’s and low 40’s, they have been close to 60, which raises the average temperature for the day considerably.  Over the year of 2015, many more record highs were set than record lows, and average temperatures were several degrees higher than normal in many locations.

Regardless of what is causing it, our environment seems to be shifting, and indications are that it may be changing faster than any previous forecasts have predicted.  Assigning the blame for the situation will not help cope with the situation, and coping is what we are going to be scrambling to do.  We are living in interesting times.  Enjoy!

Capitalistic Communism

2016/05/04

China has become a communist nation where people can’t find work.  The very definition of communism has been altered by the power of capitalistic greed.  Communist heaven has become sweatshops making goods for incomprehensible foreigners, with wage slaves toiling endless hours.  Because the workers have actually managed to improve their standard of living, they are now becoming too expensive.  The fickle finger of capitalism is now seeking lower priced labor elsewhere.

Capitalism does not care about people, the future, or the environment.  Capitalism is the exploitation of all three, shamelessly destroying them.  Without a sense of community, capitalism becomes a destructive force, denying growth, alienating the people who are essential to capitalism, the consumer.  Unchecked, capitalism will result in economic activity coming to a halt, as all of the wealth is held by a small percentage of the population.  A sense of community causes investment in the consumer, a sharing of the immense wealth that is being generated by consumerism.

Making sure that the consumer has a place to live, food to eat, and can attend school, creates a community where consumption is automatic, programmed into society.  A minimum level of survival is a product with monetary value, which adds to the Gross Domestic Product, the net worth of all of us added together.  The more we share that net worth, the more net worth we create.  What you do unto others will come back to you.  If you share your wealth, wealth will be shared with you.  Withhold your wealth, and wealth becomes difficult to find, or withers away.

An ancient holiday, a time to party!

2016/05/01

May first is Beltane, the Celtic celebration of the beginning of Summer, as well as the consummation of the union of the Goddess and the God, who were betrothed to each other at the Spring, or Vernal, Equinox.  Many people in Northwestern Europe believed that there were only two seasons, Summer and Winter, and the change from one to the other was always marked.  The end of Summer was Samhain, the origin of Halloween in our culture, when everything is dying.

The sexual energy of Spring was inherent in celebrations of Mayday, with Maypole dances, trial marriages, re-affirmation of wedding vows, and many other rituals and traditions.  In America today, Mayday is hardly celebrated, and is often confused with the Mexican celebration of Cinco De Mayo, which is actually an independence celebration, if memory serves me correctly.  This is a good time to walk in the outdoors, observing the budding plants and trees, (if you don’t have allergies,) life beginning again all around us.

We need bookmarks, place holders if you will, in our journey through our existence, a way of separating one time from another.  If we don’t do this, our lives become one constant span of sameness, undifferentiated.  If pagan rituals turn you off, you can also celebrate the beginning of the labor movement, with International Worker’s Day.  Whatever, just party!