Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lithium Will Keep Us Together

The lesson of The Seeker has rested gently on my mind. Is humankind like a “passel” of dogs where each dog rips and tears for itself? This was my frame of mind as I listened to President Obama’s recent address to the nation.

Thankfully, my disorientation as I heard an American president talk about concentrating on the United States and its people by withdrawing troops from Afghanistan was short lived. This could not be, I thought, America cannot be doing such a thing. We just might be more than a pack of feral dogs.

Then, I took a deep breath and remembered an article I had read at and with a sense of resignation accepted that the dismal future forecast in my fears is probably not capable of being averted.

Comically, I thought about that old song: “Love will keep us together” and could hear it in my mind with a slight change in words. Now it was “Lithium will keep us together”. It really has a beat to it when you think about it. Can’t remember whether it was the Captain and Tennille or Sonny and Cher, but you get my drift here.

So I yawned and sadly got ready for bed, knowing that everything, while not all right, was as expected. The status quo would continue on the path of deterioration of the present level of existence for most of us. The president’s assurances seemed to my cynical self as just another bait and switch to keep the peasants from seeing. Yep, an affirmation sadly that there is no way folks are gonna wake up.

This put me in mind of India and my recent visit there earlier this year; the dirty skies, the constant inhalation of particulate matter, and the sad knowledge that this is going on not only in India, but also in China and the rest of the developing nations of the world.

Of greater concern to a minority of us is that the degradation is already starting in America as the populous begins to view environmental regulation as the Satan that prevents economic growth. No one seems to realize that the absolute continued pursuit of personal benefit at all costs leads to absolute failure of our system. Most folks just don’t see that greed must be regulated. There, I have said it.

Is it time to get messianic? Will it make a difference? Is there free will or is man truly an animal unable to change his nature? Can the message of love, caring and concern voiced by the enlightened for eons find fertile ground without perversions and exceptions that permit hatred “just some of the time?” I think not.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Seeker Returns

Just when you think that certain experiences are behind you, you look up and there is one ahead of you. While recently at my country retreat known as Brief Recess, I went out to the barn to check on the tractor and noticed a fleeting shadow as I approached the door. I paused and looked again, closely. Then I heard his voice.

“Come on inside here before you get sunstroke out there with no hat,” the familiar voice called out.

I walked on inside to the coolness of the barn. My eyes adjusted and there he was, just twirling something like screw driver with a leather string through the handle around his index finger. He was wearing the same white shirt with the familiar pall mall cigarette hanging from his lip.

What, I wondered, was he doing here? Did he have some wisdom to impart about the crazy current happenings in our country and the world? I fumbled around and finally spoke to him. “It’s been over five years since we last talked, I think.”

“Well,” he grunted, “you seemed to be kinda perturbed and I didn’t want to see you bust your bonnet over whatever you got in your craw. Had some time off and thought I would drop in and see how you were doing.”

I related that I had retired from the judging business, started doing a little gardening and traveling around in the world.

“But something ain’t right, is it?” he inquired.

“Nope,” I admitted. “The world seems to be getting a little crazy in some respects and I feel sorta powerless as one person to do anything about it.”

“Does the way that the nation is behaving in the world, does it kinda remind you of the alpha dog in the pen full of hounds at feeding time?” He said while grinning broadly.

“You know, that is sorta the feeling I get; what with all the frustration everybody is venting about politics, about the lack of jobs, and the feeling that everybody’s standard of living is in jeopardy. I mean we don’t seem to see a need to maintain the status quo, but just seem to keep on with each individual just wanting more and more.”

“Yep, that’s lead dog behavior in the pen all right,” he remarked. “Reckon the dog getting put in a pen all by his self will calm him down any?”

“Not sure what you’re getting at here,” I replied. “But sometimes I do separate out the big dog if he gets too rough on the others, eating more than his share and all“.

“Think about it,” he said. “The nature of the world has a balance to it. When one part starts acting up, another part acts in a way to provide a counter balance. What you got to hope for is that no one part gets so caught up in its sense of individuality that it forgets it is a part of the rest. It is the same with the dog pen.”

“And so,” I asked, “your point is what?”

He looked at me thoughtfully and replied, “you gotta hope that the dogs don’t all get to snarling and fighting to the point that they tear down the whole darned dog pen.”

As I pondered this point, I heard thunder overhead, looked back at the barn door, then looked at where he had been. He was gone, but I thought I heard him chuckling somewhere in the eternal distance.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Contortions, Contractions, Contradictions

Everyone is talking today about the changes we observe happening here and all over the world. People are uncomfortable from Peoria to Paris. Social upheaval ripples from New Delhi to New Zealand to New Bedford. Tunisia to Tripoli finds everyone seeking a solution. Can these concerns be understood? Perhaps we can see an outline.

Mawkish nostalgia has met avant-garde and the results are really WOW!
Just the other day it seems, we learned from the writings of Upton Sinclair about the need for regulation in the meat packing industry to make food safer to eat.

Now minority forces seek to convince us that the prevailing sentiment in America has changed. That regulation in any form is bad! The magic hand of the free market will solve all problems. Proponents of this doctrine say we need to expand conditions that will support innovation and create solutions to the problems faced by the world. Supposedly, government (which is all of us lest we forget) artificially tied the hands of economic growth in the past and now the fetters must come off.

Tremendous improvements brought about by government programs in the past are ignored. Rural electrification, spend-offs from the space industry, results in medical research that extend and enhance the quality of life, and other items achieved through education are all being ignored by those who now say that government is bad.

Particularly repugnant to a reasoning mind is the manner in which a minority seeks to achieve the goal of less government. The masses of people are being manipulated as never before through devices that have nothing to do with the issue. The issue should be how we make our lives better through our combined efforts known as governance, not the destruction of such a "standing together" to bring about great things.

Although most people would prefer a job, a place to live and the security that these things would be there tomorrow, opponents already financial secure see such an extension of basic life benefits to the rest of the citizenry as a threat to their security. These opponents have now adopted the use of symbols to divide or divert attention from the real purpose of government.

These symbols are better called “red herrings”. One major symbol injected into the political process in this country is fundamentalist religion. The rank hypocrisy of use of such a symbol in the political process is illustrated by the fact that the armed forces of the United States are engaged in fighting two wars against population factions in foreign countries to prevent self-governance there by a religious process, fundamentalist Islam. Why? Because fundamentalist Islam demeans the rights of people to choose a more secular life style!

Alternatively, in America, the forces that would reduce government and destroy its force for good are turning more and more to introduction of divisive religious issues into the political equation. Campaigns are conducted to place religious idols, monuments or items in public places without regard to religious rights of others. Intrusive free speech is exercised to attempt to degrade the death of soldiers at their funerals. Laws are sought to attempt to govern behavior between consenting sexual parties. Some groups are even inspired to interfere with questions of private, personal ethics like abortion when a future mother’s life is in danger.

Many of the people engaged in such religious campaigns are earnest in their belief that their religious duty is to create such theocratic constraints on the public. What many of them fail to see is that their beliefs make them subject to being manipulated.

When political issues dealing with government at any level are debated, the stance that a political candidate may have taken with regard to a social religious issue is often used to discredit him or her. So, the end result is that the very people who would benefit most from election of candidate A are forced to turn away from that candidate because they think that survival of their immortal soul requires it. Candidate B is elected because that candidate made the right decision on a non-relevant religious issue, even though the needs of the electorate on relevant issues is thwarted.

Yes, the American Taliban has been born and prospers. The issue is no longer whether we should be pooling resources to investigate and find new ways to continue to prosper. The issue is whether we should divert, divide and destroy what would otherwise be a common will to collectively serve the interests of all individuals in our country.

Ideas no longer compete on merit. As resources have shrunk, civility of political discourse no longer allows a discussion of the greater good.

What should be discussed is the REAL issue. Individualism versus collectivism should be the prevailing issue. Is it better to continue to isolate ourselves in individual plots or merge together in a larger area? Is it wiser for each of us to float in a tiny canoe or for all of us to get in a large boat?

Lost in the discussion is the possibility of solutions that occupy a middle of the road position. The issue is now become a parody on the question: Can you be a little bit pregnant?

Gone are the distinctions of the caterpillar and the butterfly. Kill a caterpillar and you have killed a butterfly. The details of natural interplay in the life of the caterpillar, the events that can and do happen before that caterpillar (if lucky enough) becomes a butterfly, have all been forgotten as the search for normalcy centers on absolutes.

Somewhere, somehow, humankind has become a separate entity from the rest of the world. Instead of being a part of creation, we have grown apart from creation. Lost is the field of reference for consideration of our existence.

We should remember the Hindu proverb:
Rivers do not drink their own water. Trees do not eat their own fruit. Clouds do not swallow their own rain. What great ones have is always for the benefit of others.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

We Should Care

Today, April 5, 2011, was a rough day. In the early morning hours, a storm attacked my home in Tallahassee, Florida, with great ferocity. In my own yard, three magnificent Red Oaks were laid to rest alongside the grave of my revered golden retriever, Chelsea of Lancaster Park. Chelsea was undisturbed, however, and continues her rest unabated.

The same cannot be said for those of us who still live and breathe. My heart was touched tonight as I read the comments of an aged minister in the comments section of a computer newspaper in the town where I was born and raised. The newspaper, titled the Madison Voice (and comment), which can be read at, certainly tugged at my heart strings.

Our world, here and abroad, has erupted in a realization of the tightening of available resources. Abroad, the youth in other countries are turning against corruption and the defiling of sacred honor of self and others. Here at home, we are caught up in a web of turning against our old—perhaps because they offer a softer target than that faced by the younger generations in countries of the Middle East. There, in those places, the angst of what happens tomorrow is directed with great honesty against those who are stealing the future of the young.

While revolution abroad attacks the incumbent and corrupt leaderships that exist in those countries, we turn instead against our teachers, against those who care for our young, and against our elderly. It is a sad commentary and one of which no right thinking individual can be proud. While those who have robbed and pillaged for generations in foreign countries face a quandary and possibly the gallows, here at home we have turned against our strengths in what appears to be a resolve to reveal the most venial in ourselves. We refuse to live within our means. We refuse to face up to our responsibilities for our young and our elderly in order that we can reap great profits for ourselves in the moment.

Meanwhile, our brethren in foreign lands take a different stance and demand that corrupt leadership yield to those with better ideas and hope for the future. Such a picture of us in this day can only produce a picture tomorrow which will be an embarrassment to our descendants. Perhaps the words of the ancient prophets do not ring hollow near this anniversary of the surrender of the confederacy of the southern insurrection, along with anniversaries of the season that remembers the deaths of Martin King and Robert Kennedy; perhaps the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children for generations. If such is the case, could not those who forecast doom for this generation indeed have an eye and an ear to the future? A future filled with the screams of agony of those who refused to face up to those who have stolen our tomorrows and our hopes for a brighter day for us or at least our descendants!

Enough you are saying. Perhaps you are right. Perhaps it is time to take my sleeping pill and go to bed. After all, tomorrow is a work day and we must not think of why we are working or for whom. We do not have the courage to undertake the task proposed by such a question. All of which may dictate that we do not have the mentality or the will to keep any semblance of a society that exists for the betterment of all and prevention of its exploitation by social psychopaths on the right and the left of the political spectrum.

All I can say is: While you may be right, it still makes me wonder why those in the rest of the world want so much and are willing to give all for what so many here deem to be so little.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

India: The Elusive, The Eloquent or Misery?

After an absence of about 44 years, myself and two companions traveled back to India. We planned to look around the area of Ludhiana, Punjab where we were all stationed as U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers during the period of 1965-67. We wanted to see what had changed, as well as view some other areas of the rest of the country that we had missed before. We pretty well accomplished those goals during a journey that I term "traveling to the eye of the tiger."

Our flight landed in New Delhi around 1:15 A.M. on January 14, 2011. After gathering our luggage and clearing customs, we met our driver and headed to the hotel. We noted what appeared to be heavy smog and asked the driver about it. He pointed out that the smog was not that bad and was simply a result of the fall weather. Somehow I thought the answer was less than the full story. I was not wrong.

If this were a travelogue, I would go into detail about every site we visited. Time and space constraints do not provide such an opportunity, so I will only comment on what I considered the truly high spots of the trip (for pictures of the trip by retired photographer and newsman Charles L.Griffin, a member of our trio, go to

Following our arrival and visits to some historical sites in New Delhi, we took the train to Agra, the site of the world famous Taj Mahal. It is a truly awesome place that I had only seen from the train during my sojourn here many years ago. Definitely, it is a "must visit" for anyone who goes to India.

Also, do not miss what I call the "love temples" of Khajuraho. Most of the temples were constructed during the period of 900 to 1000 A.D. and depict in stone carvings all forms of exotic love-making by the populous of that day. I was struck by the innocence with which these people viewed the most basic of human drives. That these temples and intricate erotic carvings, made with the simplest of tools, have survived to the present day is a wonder and a tribute to the artistic appreciation of those who later came to rule the area.

The Ganges River flows majestically through India. It symbolizes so much of what this country is about. The ever constant rhythm of life, the acceptance of what is and what may be; these are all reflected in the face of this great tributary. Located on the river is the city of Benaras, or Varanasi as it is now called, Here you will find the famous "burning ghats" where disposal of bodily remains of the Hindu faithful continues to occur. This part of India seemed unchanged to me from my previous visit almost half a century before.

Nearby is Bodhgaya, the city where Lord Buddha found enlightenment under the Banyan tree around 500 B.C. He then preached his first sermon at a place called Sarnath. The effect of this religion or philosophy and its impact is truly felt when you visit these places.

Always through these travels, we were constantly aware of the terrific population of India, straining at all boundaries to accommodate 1.2 billion people within a national area which is one third the size of the United States. Population growth is estimated to continue unabated with the number of people in India eclipsing China's 2 billion souls by 2017.

Along side the growth of population is the deterioration in air quality, not to mention the voluminous amount of trash visible everywhere, mainly in the form of discarded plastic bags and bottles. Smoke stacks without "scrubbers" belch out noxious fumes and particle matter around the clock. Contaminated water, a historical problem for India, has grown worse.

In terms of economic activity, however, India is leaping forward. While inflationary pressures abound, there is an expectation of 8.3 percent economic growth in the coming year. As stated by an old friend, originally from India, "prosperity has come to India." One must wonder if the prosperity will be worth it in the long run.

New Delhi with 14 million people and 6 million automobiles proudly stands as the capital city of this great country. Here the Republic Day Parade on January 26, 2011, displayed all the grandeur and glory of India. Be aware that the military might of India has increased. The country maintains the second largest army in the world behind that of China. Now manufacturing its own war materials, inclusive of fighter jets, India is a nuclear power to be reckoned with by the rest of the world.

My "home town" of Ludhiana, once what could be called an agricultural city of 400,000 people, is situated in Punjab state. It has grown to about 1.5 million people with a concomitant increase in its manufacturing base. A textile center for the country, the blue skies and simple farming scenes of my youth in Ludhiana are no more.

Just when the pleasant thought of the India of yesterday with its many problems but simplicity of life, collided with the present overwhelming dismay of maddening crowds and honking of car horns, the beauty of the Himalayas provided us with a brief respite. Simila was declared the summer capitol of India in days of yesteryear. It remains a pleasant place to visit in the foothills of these most majestic of the world's mountains, although it is no longer the lovely alpine-like village of my memory. Growth has come even to this lovely place where homes are stacked against the mountainsides in unbelievable numbers.

A visit to India would not be complete without a reference to the tiger. Once bountiful in supply, the national population of theses great felines has decreased to about 1,411 animals. Approximately 161 of these magnificent cats reside in Jim Corbett National Park. Throughout India's national park system, efforts are being made to save the country's national mascot from extinction. Jim Corbett offers an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the tiger, if you are lucky. Whether you see a tiger or not, a trip to India inoculates you with a mixture of love for this great country and its wonderful people, as well as a deep concern for the future of the world's largest democracy.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Energy Cannot Be Destroyed

A young, brilliant economist with whom I am acquainted (he is my nephew) recently wrote a column in his blog. He maintains that nothing needs to change because energy is not destroyed, but merely altered through its use. Admittedly, he has a point. What is sadly lacking, however, is the technology today to derive energy from the discharged results of, say, the internal combustion engine. Today we call those discharges “pollutants.” We know that pollutants will eventually destroy our environment and ability to have any existence.
If we review available energy alternatives, most reviewers agree that use must be made of all known alternative sources in the future. Even then, economic growth will never equal what we have known during this age of fossil fuels.
Many look to cold fusion to fuel civilization in the days to come. If that theory can be brought within the realm of the practical, it may well provide the answer that will send man to the stars and beyond. Today, unfortunately, practicality of cold fusion is elusive.
Energy from the use of nuclear power plants has its own set of problems that technology today cannot resolve. In addition, the cost of such plants is prohibitive in today’s economy.
Most of the population does, however, assume that yesterday’s truths will always be truth. It happened yesterday, hence it will happen tomorrow. This has been dubbed the “recency” effect by persons studying human behavior and their acceptance or denial of inevitable change.
The God of technology has served our species well to date. It may well be short-sighted to think that there are limits to what we can achieve through known technology. But, the laws of Thermodynamics are immutable. When you have converted all the energy in fossil fuels to another unusable form, the human species will be in deep do-do unless replacement alternatives are developed. Economic growth will not continue at the current pace.
Present indicators do not portend a form of available energy at that time in adequate amounts to permit folks to live in the same way in the future that they do today.
The impossibility of distant future living in the same way that we live today may not be bad. Life in the future is not without hope. While that life will be different than today, it may well be a better existence if everyone lives in a more cooperative fashion.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Future of Whale Bone Corsets

The obdurate nature of humans has guaranteed their own demise. Even the most, well obdurate, among us concede that the day of plenty is fast drawing to a close. In the elapse of the century since use of the whale bone corset, cheap energy in the form of fossil fuel has brought amazing increases in human population and calamity to the planet. These increases have also brought knowledge and new technological levels.
In one day now, through the marvel of the internal combustion engine fueled by petroleum, one man and a machine can accomplish what forty men and mules did a century ago. The unbinding of energy that lay sleeping under the crust of the earth for millions of years has led to the creation of some good and much bad by that scamp we call human. A veritable Pandora’s Box has opened and from it has emerged a garrulous and hither before unseen human population on the globe that grasps, twists, and undulates like a great serpent that seeks to swallow itself.
Underlying all the scientific discovery permitting the defeat of much disease plaguing our species since its inception, has been growing yet another and more deadly disease: the destruction of the diversity that has permitted a delicately balanced and carefully tuned world to continue its existence. With the discovery of cheap energy have also come antibiotics and vaccinations. No longer is a cancerous like growing population stymied by the boundary of infection. Population increase, and its attendant problems and strains upon the maintenance of diversity, seems unabated.
Abatement is, however, on the way. Much like moral of the story of the little red hen, the “obdurate” nature of most individuals has led to enjoyment of the present with little regard for the future. Despite the brilliance of some minds in the eons of human evolution, the horrible reality of what happens next seems to have taken a back seat to heathenism. At a time when emphasis in on the individual and introspection of the individual’s needs and wants, most humans have forgotten or were never cognizant of their inclusion within that one huge group of all living humans. Each individual has regarded him or herself as a separate identity apart from the greater herd.
Individuals have at their core a need to obtain that which satisfies them through alliance with others that agree with them on those individual goals. When other alliances of individuals that may differ in seeking satisfaction are confronted, the result is conflict. Such conflict continues until there is resolution. Usually the only resolution is subjection of one alliance by another, a process called empire building. In today’s world, the process of empire building is reaching its apogee. Cheap energy has brought great knowledge with its concomitant population increases on the world. That cheap energy is now reaching the stage, as exemplified through the world economy, where it will be more and more expensive. Alliances have already begun to fight and struggle to obtain more of that sacred elixir called petroleum with the very possible conclusion that modern warfare could decree that corsets may be forever discarded along with the bodies that may have worn them.
In the event that such an apocalyptic result is avoided, chances are good for the future of whale bone corsets.