“Growing old is like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven’t committed.”
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Happy Birthday, Amanda and Hiromi.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
The skies are overcast and the first rains in Northern California in over a month are forecast. It has gotten colder also. February is the most unpleasant of months.
Happily, because of HRM’s mother’s imminent arrival and her plans to stay for about six weeks, I will be free to leave the Golden Hills and travel a bit. Where should I go? Mendocino? I probably will for a while. LA? Where would I stay? Camping in the Sierras? Too cold and too uncomfortable at my age. I could spend a month in Thailand, but it might be too expensive for me right now. I’ll probably end up staying here and watch the moss grow on the north side of my body.
The rains have driven me inside the house, no swimming or walks, no dinners at restaurants, no movies except those on television, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts and things like that. The old Technicolor films look great on our new giant curved screen TV. It does not improve either the scripts or the acting, however.
The winds have been severe in Northern California these past two days. Here in EDH, Hayden could not sleep one night fearing that one of the trees in the yard would be toppled on to the house. In Mendocino, the winds blew down a tree crushing the water tank and out-buildings at my sister’s house.
Driven indoors by the rains and tired of bad movies and worse novels, I decided to curl up with a little Spinoza. Spinoza’s first name is either Bento as his Portuguese family named him or Baruch as the Dutch Jewish community referred to him or Benedictus as Christians called him. He lived in the mid-Seventeenth Century at the start of the Enlightenment. Many consider him along with Bacon, Descartes and Locke one of its founders. To me at least, I think Spinoza and Francis of Assisi, are two of the few Saints produced in the 1200 years of western historical tradition (a small list that includes Groucho Marx, Hildegard of Bingen and Maria Callas). Although they may appear to many to be polar opposites, one rational the other transcendental; one believed in the avoidance of pain; and the other welcomed it; one thought this life is all one has to live and the other welcomed an afterlife, they have many similarities.
They both believed God and Nature were one and that to live a moral life we should behave frugally, and treat generously ourselves, humanity and nature. They also believed acceptance of ritual whether religious or social, although they may be necessary for one to live comfortably in one’s culture, are often independent of and at times inimical to a moral, kind and generous life. Spinoza refused to accept that the rituals of his Jewish culture were synonymous with rational thought and morality and so willingly suffered excommunication (cherem) from the society he loved. Francis, who rejected the materialism of his society as inconsistent with his ecstatic morality, also separated himself from those he loved.
If Francis is the patron saint of the environment, Spinoza most certainly could be considered the patron saint of science.
Spinoza Factoids: On the Chair’s table in the Dutch Parliament, Spinoza’s Tractatus theologico-politicus is one of three books, thought to be most representative of the beliefs and ethics of the Dutch people; the other two are the Bible and the Quran.
In the early Star Trek episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the antagonist, Gary Mitchell is seen reading Spinoza and the dialogue implies that Captain Kirk also may have read him as part of his studies at Star-fleet Academy (which may be the reason why to me Kirk always appeared a bit constipated. On the other hand I am sure Captain Picard read Spinoza and he was better off for it.)
Alas, since the winds and rains of last week have blown down a large tree destroying the water tanks and out-buildings at my sister’s home in Mendocino, they are now living in a rented room nearby. It looks like I will not be visiting with them for the next few weeks unless they need me to help clear the damage. George is deeply involved with the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department and is full of stories about the life and times of volunteer fire and rescue people in a small town on the remote edge of the continent.
The sun and the clear blue skies have returned over EDH. Because of the recent rains, the golden hills are no longer gold but are now green. I have resumed spending my days swimming and moping about.
Pookie at the pool
I spoke to the little masseuse by telephone. She has retired from her job as a masseuse at the health center. Unfortunately, her pension only pays her $60 a month, so she spends her nights knitting and her days trying to sell the wool scarves and caps she makes along the streets of BKK. Wasn’t there a song about a young girl who sold flowers on the sidewalk? Here we have an old woman trying to sell wool scarves in the tropics. Her greatest fear is not that she may fail in her commercial endeavors and perhaps become homeless, but that she will do so alone.
A large egret has replaced the great blue heron as a sometime visitor to the duck pond.
Overall today, February 13 has been a pretty pleasant day for me. It is also the first day of Lupercalia and the feast day of Absalom Jones and Beatrice of Ornacieux.
“…we are dealing with a fundamental truth of all social life, including all organized power systems or organized force: any organization functions effectively only against organizations which operate in terms similar to itself, yet, in the final analysis, every organization functions only when it can influence or control the moment-to-moment lives of concrete individuals. It is, in fact, impossible for any organization to do this except to the extent that the society as a mass of people tacitly accepts and supports, not only the legitimacy of what is being done in any case, but the assumptions behind the organizing principles of the organization itself.”
Quigley, Weapons Systems and Political Stability.
I suspect that here in the US, at least in so far as government is concerned, we have begun to question both “…the legitimacy of what is being done…” and, “…the assumptions behind the organizing principles of the organization itself.” At the same time and perhaps in part its cause, it seems as though in America and Europe at least, society increasingly is dominated by banking institutions and corporations and not government. If so, then the fracturing of society into large private entities that control the livelihood of individuals who make up those organizations appears not only to be a possibility but well advanced. If so, then government will be reduced only to providing that thin level of security that the banking and corporate entities are unwilling or unable to supply themselves.
This structure of society, the privatization of the community and its culture have historically always been the hallmarks of what we call, “Dark Ages.” The European Dark Ages (600AD to 1000AD) the pre-classical dark ages in the Mediterranean basin and the Near-East (1100BC to 600BC) and just about all others that we know about are identified by the breakdown of cohesive societies with an organizing principle that includes an overall governing system that we have come to define as a State and its replacement with predominately private entities. This stateless system, usually accompanied by a decades and often centuries-long depression, results in the disappearance or at least significant reduction in non-immediately productive activities such as education, art, and science and their replacement with a rigorous focus on the rudimentary development of technological improvements to production, especially of luxury and military items. It also often signals a rise in religious fanaticism.
We are seeing, in the US at this time, wealth shifting (and also in a way shrinking) from individuals as a whole to these private entities and those who control them while investments in basic education, arts, and science decrease. On the other hand, investments are still being made, at least temporarily, to expand the productivity of existing technology especially of luxury and military hardware. Alas, this also may collapse when the sources of unearned wealth dry up. In the past this point occurred when climatic conditions or political ones ceased to allow the acquisition of cheap resources by the society; that is when conquest and resource theft of less powerful societies became too costly, or the productivity of these societies grew too low to make acquisition of their resources worthwhile.
300BC — The school of Epicurus was the only school in Athens that admitted women and slaves.
1919 — Adolf Hitler became member 555 of the German Workers Party, the predecessor of the Nazi Party. (In fact, he was actually only the 55th member. For propaganda purposes at the time, the Party wanted the membership to appear larger.)
A. So that’s how it happened:
B. Testosterone Chronicles:
The most important issue facing the world today is the liberation of women and their movement into positions of power in all significant institutions. Without that, issues like climate change, war and poverty will in all likelihood not be effectively addressed in our time.
“For at least 10,000 years or so virtually every political system, economic system and religion has been designed by men for men. There is no natural or divine law that requires any of these structures to be designed in the way that they have been. During those same 10,000 years every justification of those structures have been developed by men to benefit men.”
“Speech to a man is not an invitation to a dialog as it is with women but the declaration, in a simple laconic statement, of their world view at the moment as uncontested fact — even if no one else either agrees or has any idea what he is talking about.”
“Ernest Hemingway would have died rather than have syntax. Or semicolons. I use a whole lot of half-assed semicolons; there was one of them just now; that was a semicolon after “semicolons,” and another one after “now.”
And another thing. Ernest Hemingway would have died rather than get old. And he did. He shot himself. A short sentence. Anything rather than a long sentence, a life sentence. Death sentences are short and very, very manly. Life sentences aren’t. They go on and on, all full of syntax and qualifying clauses and confusing references and getting old.”
Ursula K. Le Guin
I love this graphic.
A Rainbow in the Lake at Town Center