Perspective

spaceWe used to look up.

I don’t know exactly who I mean by ‘we’. Maybe it was my generation, when we had seen man actually make it to the moon. Maybe it was people of my mindset.  I’d like to think it was my generation, with parents who had watched the original series of ‘Star Trek’ – and our generation who saw the original ‘Star Wars’. Or,  ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, or even, ‘E.T.’.

We used to look up. We used to stare at the stars, some of us, while laying in the grass.

I’ve spent most of the day watching this live stream, in the background, as I read and did other things. It’s beautiful. It’s amazing. And we take it for granted, we sit there staring at phones, communicating about little of worth.

The things of worth we do talk about are about how we can’t keep things from flooding, or people from doing dumb things, or arguing over which idiot is better than which – we who could put a man on the moon, who could build an international space station, who could go peeking at other planets like a nosy neighbor.

We have the capacity to know where we are on our own planet with accuracy that would make ancient mariners ecstatic, and we have that on devices that Tesla told us we would eventually have. It wasn’t so long ago that these things didn’t exist. We dreamed big.

Then the Internet happened – a complex system of communication, too complex for our communication as we began to talk to people around the world. Kittens and pornography propagated it across the world.

Some were so intent on selling their products, services and thoughts that they got really good at marketing. In fact, they got so good at marketing that their marketing became better than their products, services and thoughts.

Somewhere along the way, I think we stopped looking up with a sense of awe. We stopped seeing what our combined efforts could do if we chose to work together.

We should look up.

Beneath The Wheel

The Old Town Astronomical ClockWe are all beneath the wheel, the crush of time, the prolapse of our minds and souls as things change around us.

A Snapshot

The teenager man-boy, a quotient of a fractured home, tries to find his way to manhood in an alien environment where someone who cared enough gave him a roof with conditions, walls with rules, and a freedom to be responsible where before he had none.

He works in the yard under the mock disdain of an elderly gentleman who did not invite the project, but who in his own way wants the best for the young man, suffering the indifference of the teenager to his words.

I am a visitor in this realm, as with most other realms, and I’m supposed to have some purpose here – which, of course, is to find my purpose there, as it is anywhere.

Time is not on the side of anyone.

The elderly man, who we’ll call grandfather, thinks of his downhill slope to the grave. It sits behind his eyes as he looks over the world in front of him – as if it were a story he has seen before, worn, lucid, tired.

The boy – let’s call him the nephew – does not understand that when I look at him, I think of this quotation and ponder:

When a tree is polled, it will sprout new shoots nearer it’s roots. A soul that is ruined in the bud will frequently return to the springtime of it’s beginnings and it’s promise-filled childhood, as though it could discover new hopes and retie the broken threads of life. The shoots grow rapidly and eagerly, but it is only a sham life that will never be a genuine tree. – Hermann Hesse, Beneath The Wheel

He is young and yet he has catching up to do, having missed the starting gun that society fires too often too early for the children it creates.

He is a child in puberty, not yet a young man in mind or spirit. His childhood has not been misplaced, it has been stunted and his misfortune is that given his abilities, he must cast away the slivers of childhood he was left with all the while reshaping into a man before his time. While society creates the children like him, it does not tolerate adults like him.

He feels the crush of the pressure and, being stubborn, pushes back or not at all. He is like a plant that atrophies at the sunlight it needs.

At some point he will bend or he will break, it is the way of the world – a way that is not couched in the anthropomorphized visions  of well intentioned people, but rather the way that is couched in the grand bureaucracies and cultures we use to govern our kind. The same grand bureaucracies and cultures that creates children like him.

And then there I am, an observer and not – an Uncle of sorts, new to his world, young to the older man, trying to have a positive effect all the while considering, thinking about how difficult he was at that age, and how everything that was tried on me didn’t work – and through my own muddlings, I found my answers that became questions of answers, to questions of those, to stand there and not have answers and simply more questions. I see the time short for both, the grandfather and the nephew, and in the reflections of their clocks I see a parallax of my own.

I have no great wisdom to cross the voids, only the knowledge to avoid the cliched mistakes. For self-preservation, I wear the visage of the observer and say things that I hope might make it through in time for the nephew, for he has little time before he too is beneath the crush of the wheel that will only bend him if he learns, but will break him if he does not.

The crush of the world as time ticks onward, and it does not care if you slouch or stand straight. It has no care for what bends or breaks, no empathy, no sympathy. It is the machine, the product of millenia of human generations, an antique as easily found in the basement of humanity as on a museum walls of academia and governance.

The Search for Meaning.

Playmobile pottyI’m not sure we really matter.

No, this is not some existential issue I’m having. There have been enough of those, all without epiphanies. No, I’m writing about our species.

If, by some chance, I were to encounter a life form from another planet – or even a life form from this planet – I’m hard pressed to think of anything we do, as a whole, that is worth mentioning in a meeting where first impressions matter. Sure, we have technology, science, spirituality… the list goes on, but that’s all self-referential. If we actually look at what we do from outside of our species, it would make a very thin blog post. A colony of bees has a use. A planet of humans – we change everything to our own benefit even while changing things against our benefit. It’s wonky.

What is our purpose? Ask anyone and you’ll get a different answer. We’re convinced that our species is immortal when generations of us live and die under the light of dead stars. In a way we are immortal, somehow managing procreate faster than we die to the point where we’ve pretty much run out of space on a planet because of our own constructs. Governments pay farmers not to grow food in some countries while others starve. We have weapons in our arsenals that no one on the planet can run away from unless they have a ticket to get into space, and we haven’t quite figured out where we would want to go other than, ‘not here’.

It’s easy to imagine how our species got scattered around the planet. There was a lot of ‘not here’ involved. In fact, every country I have been to – those socioeconomic geopolitical divides cartographers note – has a fair number of people who want to go somewhere else simply because it’s ‘not here’. As a species, maybe that means we’re nomadic.

As individuals, we are defined and usually define ourselves by our role and status in society, but we would never admit to being drones serving queens in a hive. Or would we? And should we? I think so. We haven’t figured out a system that isn’t like indentureship – people work for a company, pay other companies, but really we work in a system and pay the system to live in the system simply because we were… born in the system. That’s pretty unimaginative.

We all agree to some extent on what life is. Our shared illusion, perhaps. We all know that death is a certainty and joke that taxes are too, when death is not of our creation and taxes are. We could, if we wanted, abolish taxes – but instead we fight to abolish death. And we’re getting better at that since in that way, the drones can pay more taxes before their deaths. That’s peculiar.

Let’s say that we abolish death. Does that mean we get to play life longer? How is that a benefit? I’m hard pressed to explain how that is a benefit.

Technology, science? Pretty self-referential so far. A bunch of primates staring at small screens while bumping into each other at varying speeds hardly seems like progress, particularly when meaningful conversation is lost amid the noise. It’s brownian motion. We’re as entertaining as a cup of tea.

Religion? Self-referential as well, and while Pascal’s Wager is worth exploring, people get indoctrinated into religion before they are allowed to make big decisions in society. It’s a child marriage of sorts. But beyond that, religion doesn’t say too much about what our species is supposed to do, just about how people should behave. Again, self-referential. Imagine the leaps the space programs of the world would have if religions dictated that prayers had to be made in space to be effective.

The very idea that we don’t matter eats at us. It devours us because we desperately, from within our place as cogs of society and the weight that comes with, want to think that all of this means something. That despite our species own demonstrated self-destruction while proliferating at a greater rate, that despite what we feel during those dark parts of our lives that we hide from, we matter.

Is not mattering such a problem?

So, here’s the fun part. If we don’t matter, it doesn’t matter if we think we do. We have a blank slate if we don’t matter, where we can define as a species who we really are… or we have the fingerpainted hieroglyphics of our past to define ourselves by.

Are we really defined by what we have done instead of what we could do? That’s how they measure the value of person in HR and in society – or more would be done for children in society.

Speaking for myself, I like the idea of defining ourselves by what we could do. 

But then, I don’t matter.

Compromised Betrayals

Nightmare of JudahSome say compromise is noble
But “not at the cost of betrayal”
Remains unsaid…
Lost to those captive in books.

The water compromises, seeking
Paths of least resistance –
Yet it never betrays itself.
To be water is to be understood.

People compromise, seeking
Paths of least resistance
And betray themselves –
To be human is to be misunderstood.