Super Shorts

A tiny poem…for your listening pleasure

The ant hills were a bit flattened by the time I thought to snap a photo.

AND….

a piece of “micro-fiction” from a prompt about an idea lighting on the mind like a butterfly… for the Peninsula Writers Group spring newsletter. This is a little different from my usual style…

Cecil and Eileen Go Camping

The idea fluttered by, and by again, finally lighting on her mind for a nano-second, before fluttering off once again. The second time, the spark at the synapse was a  stronger blip. This time she could see the butterfly for a micro-second. It was an Eastern Black Swallowtail. Eileen had trained her intuitive mind to show her a specific series of butterflies when a new idea was forming. There was nothing she could do about it but wait, until the Red Admiral and Painted Lady had come and gone. When the Mourning Cloak showed up, the idea was ready for daylight.

 

“That’s crazy!” Cecil said, his lips split in a wide grin. “I’ll help.”

 

***

 

Eileen emerged naked from the tent, followed by Cecil, in the same condition, for moral support. He turned, reached back into the tent opening, and pulled out a paint brush and the jar of bait.

 

Eileen’s breathing quickened a little as Cecil opened the jar, and then more as he dipped his brush and started painting her.

 

The buzz of giant wasps could be heard from afar. Eileen’s breathing steadied. The wasps arrived. Eileen opened her arms and welcomed the sting. Soon the nightly pains would be over. The kindness of the anesthetic paralyzer acted quickly. The atoms which had combined their essences to be Eileen would soon disperse into millions of wasp larvae, some of whom would become bird shit, and others of whom would wing their way around the world.

 

Cecil didn’t know if Eileen could still hear him, but he stayed, and played his guitar for her. He sang her songs. He watched over her, until the larvae hatched, ten days later. Then he drove down the highway, to home.

 

Seeing in Poetry

The earliest blooming shrub in spring in most of the places I have lived, the forsythia has been sad in recent years, thinking it’s spring and blooming a second time in November. For whatever reason, (very mild winter?) the blooms all around West Michigan were gorgeous this year.

A Day in Spring

Reds and yellows mist the branches of tall trees,
followed by innocent green.
I look past open polygons to tiny skies beyond,
noticing a stray branch pointing westward.

The forsythia flowers crowd their limbs.
Butter yellow, no longer innocent,
hidden by new leaves,
soon they’ll drop to their doom.

Now dandelions carry the forsythia’s forsaken
yellow flags.
Shortly, they too, will surrender, and the tatters
of white ones will wander,
in search of a bit of earth.

Winter was unkind to my pussy willow,
but the bamboo, neglected for decades,
has marched forth and multiplied,
in the shadow of the spruce.

In the shadow of the spruce. End of poem. Going to prose now. But I just liked how that phrase sounds. In the shadow of the spruce….

Anyway, lots of people notice the changing leaf colors in fall. The changing leaf colors of spring are more muted. I didn’t used to notice. My friend and spiritual mentor, Reverend Dan Kivel, told me that I’d be able to tell if I had a spiritual awakening because colors would look brighter. I found this to be incorrect. However, I did notice that there were a lot more subtle changes in the colors of the living world around me. In earliest spring, I noticed that what I always thought of as green, because they were tree leaves, which “are green,” were really red, yellow, brown, pink, and then maybe some were really green. I can’t remember if he acknowledged that my change in perception counted as a spiritual awakening at that time or not.

Try Googling “change of leaf color in spring.” Good luck. Not much out there. It’s all about fall.

 

 

Wrong about Worms!

The worm, surprised by the sudden appearance of daylight, quickly retreated into its tunnel.

“Do worms have eyes?” asked Danny.

“Hmm, good question. I don’t think so.”

“Either did I. Maybe they can sense light though. Or maybe it simply felt the air move. Or maybe it was resting against the bottom of the flower pot when you picked it up.”

I had recruited Danny to help me clean up the yard, his young skeleton being more flexible than mine, and his muscles stronger.

“It’s hard to say what a worm knows!” Danny pointed out.

“Well, it’s easy to find some verbiage about worms. But saying something meaningful and truthful requires mental wrestling,” I reminded my young neighbor.

Worms do not have vertebrae!” retorted Danny. “That did not require too much wrestling.”

I nodded, happy to hear this entity of tender years producing such a pithy aphorism, and replied to him.

“We do have vertebrae, but we are still subject to the winds of fate. Our vertebrae help us stand straight, but we can’t avoid making some wrong turns in life.”

“Yeah,” mumbled Danny. “I’m still calculating the worth of that last explosion of wrath I indulged in.”

My eyes involuntarily sought the exit to the wormhole. I knew the feeling. We had met in the advanced anger management class. Our warped personalities were both on the mend. We were cultivating our minds. Tired of having to wriggle away from the complicated conditions we had created for ourselves, we were learning new habits. We were learning how to un-braid the strands of our troubled lives. We were learning to unwrap the layers of weird circumstances that had trapped us in inner turmoil. We were learning that prose is preferable to fists. Versatility is what we can learn from the worm.

Your face is wreathed in smiles,” noted Danny.

“Versatility is what we can learn from the worm,” I cheerfully replied.

“Right!” said Danny. No damn vertebrae to get in the way.”

MUSE

Our homework assignment in writing group was to randomly pick a word from the dictionary and write something about it or with it. I usually don’t do the homework. Most of the others in the group are retired and have more time. This time, I was inspired to write something though, but “WREATHE” (the verb) just did not give me much to go on. So I turned to the “Indo-European Root” dictionary at the back of the American Heritage Dictionary that I got a few years back. Word origins are very interesting. I read and underlined the entire Indo-European and Semetic root word appendices when the book arrived.

“Wreathe” comes from the root word “wer” of which there are three unrelated versions. (They’d sound different in the original Indo-European language, but all are represented as “wer” in modern American English. Wreathe comes from “wer” #2.) This version of “wer” has to do with turning and wrapping. It’s amazing how so few root words have generated so many individual expressions of nuance in the last 5000 years or so.

The highlighted words are all derivatives from “wer” #2. Of course some of the derivations in this dictionary are (IMHO) wrong. It’s tough work and the professionals tend sometimes to ignore the obvious in favor of the obscure. Sovereign, for example, (meaning self rule) obviously comes from whatever roots generated “swa” (self) and “raj” (as in “raja, king, also like reign!) but they have a different take.

 

Self Evident Truth About Distracted Driving

Earlier this week, the topic of discussion on NPR’s “On Point” radio show was the scourge of distracted driving. There are people working on smart technologies to  stop people from doing tasks that require too much attention when they are moving at high velocity. There are apps that track high cognitive activities such as browsing and texting. These apps would be the equivalent of a “breathalyzer,” and cops could ask to see your device if you were stopped for a traffic violation. Supposedly our legal system would let people off the hook if the passenger stated under oath that they were the one using the device, not the driver. Just as social pressure has been used to greatly reduce the acceptability and frequency of drunk driving, social pressure is being used to bring awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.

The main danger is often said to be the driver taking eyes off of the road. Usually the eyes are linked to using the device while it’s in the hands. Hands are surely linked to the brain.  But there have been studies showing that hands free driving is still distracted driving, and causes just as many accidents.

We See with our BRAINS

We have to remember, or realize, that we see with our BRAINS as much as we see with our eyes. The largest part of our brain is devoted to visual processing. While some people are undoubtedly better at multi-tasking than others, most of us over-rate our abilities in this area. See http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0054402  which includes the following

Ophir et al. [8] found that persons who frequently multi-task ….may be those who are the least cognitively equipped to effectively carry out multiple tasks simultaneously.

When we’re talking on the phone, it is not like talking with someone riding in the vehicle with us. It might be more like having a crying baby or a bunch of rowdy kids with us. The person at the other end of the line, the crying baby, the misbehaving kids, do not quiet themselves to allow you, the driver, to pay attention to the road when the situation demands. The person at the other end of the line, the crying baby, the misbehaving kids, are unaware that it would be safer for all if they were quiet, to allow the driver to pay attention to rapidly changing circumstances. In the case of the person at the other end of the line, they entangle the driver in their local “thought field,” (see this related article on shared consciousness), which is usually related to something other than the road conditions.

This realization came to me some years ago, when almost everyone believed that hands free cell phone use while driving meant safe cell phone use. That was well before the advent of smart phones. I had a client who had told me he thought that there should be two levels of drivers licenses. One for regular people, and one for those who had demonstrated that they could read while driving. He was a smart guy overall, and the above referenced work at the University of Utah leads us to believe that there could be test to allow the competent multi-taskers to be certified. But I still do not think I like the idea. A lot can happen in the blink of an eye when traveling at high speed.

Despite this, I’m also not a fan of driverless vehicles.

When is someone going to show that this emperor has no clothes?

We can’t keep our credit cards, bank accounts, medical information, social security numbers secure. We can’t keep our computers free of viruses and malware. How are we going to prevent hackers from creating giant accidents?

I guess we’ll “just have to get used to those giant “accidents,” as we are having to “get used to” attacks by terrorists and the neglected mentally ill.

Update October 30, 2016

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is taking action after the entrepreneur had tee shirts printed bragging about how rich they were going to get.

Hallelujah. Greedy, hubris drenched capitalist gets his come-uppance!

https://www.yahoo.com/tech/nhtsa-urges-u-self-driving-startup-delay-sale-133708559.html

 

Peaches, Peaches, Peaches

Drowning in peaches, peaches, peaches.

You have to be drowning, you have to have access to and responsibility for the tree.

Otherwise you’d eat the peaches as they ripen. Only when you have too many peaches,  some inevitably go past the stage of perfection to a stage of super-perfection. Because that’s when they are sweetest and most full flavored. And when you get them off the tree that way, starting to ferment a bit, turning brown in the pit, maybe some  bad spots that you have to cut away, those are the ones that make me want to have my own peach trees. Those are the ones that make it worth going through all the work of pruning and fertilizing and all the rest of it.

This was a great year for peaches. I had help in the orchard and thinned the fruit. The result was some really big and beautiful peaches.

Here’s my poem…

Peaches, peaches, peaches.

Not straight from the tree.

Even the warm ones bursting with flavor are too fuzzy straight from the tree.

Mother Nature’s fuzz functions too well.

Rub first in running water.

Cut along the edge of the pit. Grasp the halves and twist.

Open mouth. Bite. Turn so the flesh is down on the tongue.

Chew. Sweetness and flavor explode.

Behind Falling In Love

Based on another prompt from my writing group…

I wasn’t planning on this. Falling in love with you was the last thing I wanted. Because I know our time will have to come to an end. Yet here I am, begging you not to turn the page.

Time marches on at its own pace. You are not in love with me. It’s just the name you came up with to describe the cloud of reactions to hormonal releases during the exciting events we recently experienced together.

You sound like a Buddhist.

Well that’s because the Buddhists have the most practical advice for getting over doomed or failed romances. Remind yourself that I am nothing but skin and bones, flesh and blood, urine and fecal matter, hair and fat.

That’s BS. Even the Buddhists know we have an immortal essence.

Exactly my point. But that’s not what you fell in love with. You fell in love with the experience of the effects of the hormones. It’s time to turn the page.

The emotionally entangled state is the natural one for humans. That’s why we evolved all the complex hormones that give us these sacred experiences.

No. The hormones were evolved in earlier mammals. I have come to understand that only by liberating myself from those outdated entanglements can I be free for the next exciting adventure!

 

 

 

 

No Place to Hide

Here’s another little story I wrote from a Mid-Michigan Word Gatherers prompt.

This time, there was no place to hide. “I never should have come to this planet,” I thought. A barren rock with shallow pools of water, barely adequate to support the pitiful excuse for native lifeforms. Jeremiah the bullfrog might have felt at home here, taking shelter under the low shrubs that lined the edges of the ponds, but the entire planet was devoid of any cover for an entity of my size. “No,” I reminded myself, “I should have stuck to the diet pills, instead of doing this vacation trip.”

Sure, my will power was given a vacation, because there was absolutely nothing tempting in sight, except the pools, when one became thirsty. This only happened once a week, because the humidity in the air kept the body hydrated, and the bad taste of the water naturally reduced the temptation.

“A MONTH’S VACATION FROM THE NEED TO EXERCISE WILL POWER!” the advertising announced.

“ESCAPE FROM FREEDOM!

GIVE YOUR BRAIN A REST!

LOSE UNWANTED POUNDS!”

And I paid a year’s salary for this pleasure trip?????

MUSE….

My son gave up pop a few years ago. My son is quite the example for exercising will power for such a young person. I had purchased some fancy pop for a special occasion, and he still would not drink it. “I made my decision and I’m not revisiting it,” or something to that effect, was his comment. “If it’s no, it’s no. It’s easier that way.” The psychological research has shown that will power is like a muscle, and like muscles, even the strongest do eventually tire and need rest. We are human and we do have limits. We can strengthen ourselves, but we never totally overcome the inherent limitations of living in a body with a large degree of pre-programmed responses.

After reading several of Rollo May‘s books from the 1950’s, explaining the difficulties inherent in developing our own true centers as unique individuals (hint: a lot of will power is required), I have started delving into Erich Fromm’s writing. “Escape from Freedom,” originally written during the lead up to World War II, explains how the Protestant Reformation, and specifically the ideas of Luther and Calvin, laid the foundations for the eventual transformation of infant Capitalism into Monopolistic Capitalism. Luther and Calvin stripped God of the loving and compassionate characteristics inherent in the Judeo-Christian tradition up to that time, to (unconsciously) reflect the nature of the social structure of the late Middle Ages, where money (specifically, “Capital”) was becoming the real god of Western humanity. Fromm lays out a detailed description of the Protestant world-view, which portrayed the only possible way to salvation being a total humiliation of the self. This led the masses of humanity, bereft of any sense of inherent dignity, to give in to the elites of the capitalist hierarchy, and become nothing more than a cog in the machine. Note the use of the word “hierarchy,” still in place today with regard to corporation structures; a sickening perversion of the original meaning of hierarchy, or “sacred order.”

Here we have a rather dramatic illustration of the law of unintended consequences…Did Luther and Calvin, who were trying to overturn the authority and abuses of the Catholic Church, and give each individual the right to have a personal relationship with God… Did these founders of Protestantism want each Christian to submit to MONEY / CAPITAL as their new god? Probably not! Yet the Protestant Reformation led to the thought field of God’s sanction of the powerful, whether or not they used the power in the interest of all of humanity.

The prophets calling the kings to account was now a moot point.

Of course no world religion keeps much of its founder’s original ideas. So at least some of the problems that arose at the birth of the Protestant Reformation have been remedied. I am now a little over half way through my second reading of Fromm’s book. I’ve always been more interested in ancient history than modern, so it has not been an easy read, even as I see Fromm laying out an extremely detailed argument for some of the ideas I present in The Convolution of Knomo Choicius as being “Self Evident Truth.” But for those interested in the intersection of psychology, sociology, politics and religion, “Escape from Freedom” is a work of genius.

Reaching Out to YOU!

I live out in the country. Sometimes it’s lonely but as Osho says, we can embrace our aloneness, which I am doing more often. The drive to work is long, but on a clear winter night, I always stop to look up at the stars. The spring weather has finally arrived, and the flowering shrubs smell wonderful. This morning, I looked out my kitchen window, and within two minutes, saw a pair of dragonflies, a swallowtail butterfly, a cardinal, and other random (less beautiful or at least less memorable!) bugs flying around.

 

Part of why I decided to write Knomo Choicius was to meet new people and exchange ideas. I don’t think I had much hope that I would find anyone “LIKE MINDED,” since I often feel so weird, or as my mom says, eccentric. But maybe, I thought, just maybe there would be some people who found my ideas about the possible future of humanity interesting. Over the years, in my engineering society, I’ve met others who like to “shoot the breeze” on philosophical topics. There were several PhD’s (and quite a few with univeristy teaching experience) who were brave enough to entertain some wild ideas. There are a few chapters in Knomo that try to convey the spirit of these exchanges.

 

Here’s an excerpt from the book…..

 

The Origin of the Myth of the Son of the Goddess as Her Consort
2026 Earth Current Era
Gorka, Pearl, and Susan walked out of the door of the Glaucus Humanities Building.
“Time for drink!” said Gorka.
“Yep, it’s been a long week!” agreed Susan.
“How about that new bar over on Second and Wise?” suggested Pearl.
“Gimboling in the Wabe?” asked Gorka.
“Yeah, that’s it!” agreed Pearl. “Don’t you love the name?”
“Sure,” grinned Gorka. “Sounds like a good place for professors to shoot the breeze on a Friday afternoon.”
They walked along, joining the crowd of people getting an early start to the weekend.
“I was wondering,” said Pearl, the youngest member of the faculty amongst the three of them, “just who was this Glaucus, for whom our building was named.”
“Why are you suddenly wondering, after being here for two years?” teased Susan.
“I had a dream about some swallowtail butterflies. Turns out that our local genus, the yellow and black striped ones, are called Glaucus.”
“Why would a swallowtail butterfly be named after a Trojan warrior hero?” asked Susan, scratching her head.
“Same question I asked,” answered Pearl.

“Turns out Linnaeus decided to name
swallowtail species for Greek heros.”
“You have to find names somewhere!” said Gorka. “However, one might wonder why he didn’t save the Greek hero names for something more burly than butterflies.”
Susan laughed. “So Gorka, what about our Glaucus?”
“His family made their money in international shipping. They were Greek, following their ancient cultural heritage of the sea trade. He came to the U.S. to go to school, and he met the woman who was to become his wife. She was one of the founding members of our philosophy faculty. She thought the Humanities should be given more prominence at our campus.”
“Right. The state universities were founded for engineering and agriculture. Humanities, sciences and art came later,” added Susan.
“You know how it goes when you look something up on line,” said Pearl.

“Glaucus butterflies are not the only biological Glaucus.”
“Okay. Clue us in!” said Gorka.
“Turns out that there’s an animal called a Glaucus. It’s a nudiform mollusk, to be exact. That means it doesn’t have a shell.”
“Kind of like a slug?” asked Susan.
“Yeah, but it lives in the ocean, at the surface of the water, and spends most of its time clinging, upside down, to the surface layer of the water, and grazing on Portugese Man-O-Wars and the like. And oh, by the way, they’re less than an inch long.”
“So the Man-O-Wars don’t even notice them til it’s too late?” asked Gorka.
“I’m not sure, but apparently, either singly or en masse, they can consume an entire Man-O-War. But they don’t digest the stinging organs of the Man-O-War. They keep them to use as self protection.”
“Wow. Who would have thought of such a thing. Just goes to show that nature is really wild in so many ways,” said Susan.
“Yeah, and these creatures are an incredibly beautiful blue on top, silver on the bottom, and their arms and legs look like pentagonal fractal patterns.”
“So we have Dr. Mrs. Glaucus the American philosopher, Glaucus the

Trojan hero, Glaucus swallowtail butterflies, and Glaucus mollusks!” said Susan.
“Don’t forget Glaucus, the Greek god,” reminded Gorka.
“Here’s the bar,” said Susan, opening the door and holding it for the others. “Go get a table. I need call Michael to let him know where to meet us. Can you just order me whatever beer they have on special?”
“Sure, Susan,” Pearl said. “See you in a few.”

#

Susan took her place at the table, raised her glass and said “Cheers!” The other two responded. Then Gorka pointed out a detail of the art-work on the wall. “The Mad Hatter,” he said. “That’s why I’m an American.”
“What does that mean?” asked Pearl. “I’ve already gone over that in my mind. If my ancestors hadn’t come to America, ‘I’ wouldn’t exist.”
“Of course,” Gorka said. “Our specific ego forms are a result of a very large number of factors, an important one being whether our parents had a chance to meet.”
“That’s interesting,” Susan said. “The fact that we somehow can do the

thought experiment and imagine that our personal ego would still exist, even if our particular parents had never met… That is very interesting.”
“What do you mean?” asked Pearl.
“Well, doesn’t it point to the fact that some part of us thinks we are more than our genes and our culture? More than nature and nurture?”
Gorka looked at Susan, and smiled and nodded, while Pearl scratched her head. “What more could we be?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” said Susan, “but I do wonder about it. Could you pass the
popcorn?”
Pearl pushed the basket of popcorn over towards Susan.
“So, Susan,” Gorka said, “you’re getting closer to your dream of going to space. How’s the project going?”
Susan sighed. “It’s going, but some aspects of it are making me feel like a hypocrite. My problem is that I fear the homo saps joining us on the satellite.”
“There are worse things than your type of hypocrisy,” Gorka reminded her.
“I know. My compassionate self wants the homo saps to decide to join us knomos. But I don’t want them in my back yard until they become knomos.”
“Susan, try to look at the bright side,” Pearl said. “We’ve had so many

interesting discussions. Idea after idea. Look how lonely most thinkers have been over the eons. We have a real community here in the history department, and you have another community with your Seeker friends.”
“We’ll never be able to count on the continuity of our real community until our ideas prevail across a wider range of society,” Susan grumbled.
“Well, let’s change the subject, then,” said Gorka. “Pass the peanuts, please!”
Susan did so, and then continued in a little more cheerful voice, “My capra hircus article is coming out in a new book next week.”
“You mean The Origin of the Myth of the Son as Consort of the Goddess in the
Domestication of Capra Hircus is getting a second publication?” Gorka asked, gulping in some air at the conclusion of his sentence.
Susan nodded. “All that research with the archeology department paid off. I think interdisciplinary work is starting to enter a new phase. It’s accepted now. Not just my book, of course. Others in other fields are setting examples of how productive it is.”
“Yes,” agreed Gorka. “There are now quite a few academics who have published bestsellers in fields that are considered ‘interdisciplinary work.’”
“Why do you sound so sarcastic?” Pearl asked.
“Well, as a historian, it seems a bit of a stretch to consider a collaboration of
anthropologists and archeologists as ‘interdisciplinary’ in a really meaningful way. There’s so much overlap in the questions they are trying to answer.”
“That may be the case, but I am still happy that my work has been well received,”
Susan said.
“So what was your exact thesis again?” asked Pearl. “You speculated that early
peoples’ religions experienced a big transformation, as large mammals neared
extinction, making it harder to bring them home for dinner.”
“Yes,” Susan agreed. “That’s the first part.”
“And then you figured out that the myth of the son as consort of the goddess must have originated when an injured pregnant caprine doe was captured and nursed back to health. Then, when her buck kid came to maturity the next year, they mated, thereby creating the foundation for the domestication of animals.”
“Yes, Pearl,” Susan said, nodding. “You have integrated the idea, now.” She smiled at Pearl, and then summarized the key point of her paper. “The doe goat was the first savior that our ancestors recognized in the changing world of the Neolithic.”
“And of course you’ll never be able to prove that this exact scenario created the idea of the offspring of the goddess becoming her consort,” Pearl said, her voice a little stronger now.
But Gorka had agreed. “It makes a lot more sense than interpreting the symbol of a human form mother taking her son as consort. That’s simply an incestuous
relationship.”
Michael pulled over a chair, and they redistributed themselves at the round table, to let him join in, Susan giving him a quick kiss. “Maybe that was part of the idea,” he said. “That the goddess was so powerful, she could flaunt the laws that applied to humans. It showed her power. Her son looked like her, and that was attractive to her.”
Gorka had sipped his beer, then offered “Maybe. But somehow the Eastern Orthodox Christians transformed the symbol into a depiction of Mother Mary with a miniature adult Jesus. If it had originally been showing an incestuous relationship, wouldn’t the symbol have been too toxic to transform?”
Susan took another sip of beer, and watched Pearl grab another handful of popcorn, while they mulled the transaction between the two men.
Gorka then added “I think that if the original symbol had been of an incestuous
relationship, it would have been completely suppressed in the Christian tradition. Where were Eve’s daughters in Genesis?”
Pearl agreed. “You have a good point. In ancient times, among humans, pretty
much only the Egyptians thought incest was good.”
Gorka laughed. “Good point! And then, even the Egyptians only allowed sibling spouses for the royalty. And the royal stock eventually declined because of it!”
Susan took yet another sip of beer and started shelling a few peanuts. “Yeah, I bet the humanization of the savior goat was later. And you’re probably right Pearl. By then, civilizations had multilevel hierarchies, and a powerful goddess image flaunting human laws would reinforce the power of the king, her servant, on Earth.”
It was Michael’s turn to agree. “Rules are for the weak. History shows that the powerful have always done what they wanted.”
Pearl glared at Michael. “But in prehistory, humans changed that! The powerful were constrained for thousands of years. Then, Sargon showed up.”
“Pearl, one person can’t change everything,” reminded Gorka.
“Yes, Gorka. I know. There were precursor events leading to Sargon’s conquest. But that doesn’t change the fact that for thousands of years, the weak managed to work together to constrain the powerful.”
Gorka smiled in his mature relaxed way, and side stepped back to the original
discussion. “Getting back to Susan’s point now. Freud and many others had
speculated for years on the origins of the incest taboo, and as far as archeologists and anthropologists could figure out, it far predated agriculture of any kind.”
“That’s right!” said Michael.
“What’s right?” asked Gorka.
“Freud thought that the incest taboo originally came from an uprising of the young against the alpha male and his couple of beta honchos. He speculated that the young got tired of watching the alpha have sex with all the cute females, and carried out a violent overthrow.”
“Really? Are you making this up?” asked Pearl.
“Of course not. I’m a psychologist. Why would I make something up about Freud? Read Totem and Taboo. It’s all spelled out.”
“I’ll put it on my list!”
“The bottom line, according to Freud, was that after the murder of the alpha, his
replacement was forced to abandon his hereditary and muscle enforced nearly solitary and special right to the females.”
“What does that have to do with the incest taboo?”
“I’ll spell it out!” smiled Michael. “The new alpha had to agree to avoid having sex with his daughters. Since pretty much only the alpha and beta males got to have sex, pretty much all the younger generation were daughters of the alpha and the betas.”
“Oh. So the new alpha was one of the old betas….”
“You’re catching on Pearl! There had to be some compromise at first. But Freud
speculated that this became the first law where the weak imposed their will on the strong.”
“That!” announced Pearl, “is very interesting. So really, the incest taboo was against fathers having sex with their daughters. It originally wasn’t against sisters and brothers. So the Egyptians weren’t going against the original taboo. Interesting.”
“Dudley Young, and other anthropologists, later wrote about the sister brother thing. How marrying from outside of the group built complex social structures that increased the chances of survival in tough times.”
“Well you apparently do have wide ranging interests, Michael. I guess that’s why Susan is in love with you.” Pearl grinned at Michael.
Michael rolled his eyes at the ceiling, then grinned back at Pearl.
“No,” Susan said.
“No what? You’re not in love with me?”
“No, it has nothing to do with that!” She blew him an air kiss. “No has to do with the earlier conversation. The original version of the myth of the mother taking her own son as consort must not relate to a human relationship.”
“Well, I do hope you still believe what you published in the article, Susan,” said Pearl.
“I think it’s ok to continue to question my conclusions, even after I’ve published!” Susan announced, and raised her glass to her own intellectual integrity.
“Good point, Susan. Good point. Better be open minded than certain,” Gorka said.
Susan continued her explanation. “To be holy way back then, it had to be realistic, and to be realistic, it had to be some non-human animal. First of all, because humans felt weak, so a human would not have been the first choice to be deified. Secondly, as you just noted, in human society, only the males took their daughters as sexual partners. Unless he was an alpha or beta, a woman taking her son to father her offspring was revolutionary. The wild ancestor of the modern domesticated goat is the most likely candidate for the origin of the feminine godhead.”
Gorka laughed. “That is pretty much the same way you explained it the last time!”
“Well, there’s some shade of different understanding now. I have greater confidence in what I am saying.”
“You do think out of the box, Susan,” Gorka acknowledged. “I’m sure you’ll be able to find new collaborators in the anthropology department.”
Michael nodded. “Her next article will be ‘The Origin of Feminism in the Myth of the Horned Mother Goddess.’”
Susan grinned. “At least the title of that one will be a little shorter.

 

The Fruit of Cultivating Clarity

Cultivate Clarity! Learn to Discern!

The Critical Thinking Community has some very practical information on how to learn to do critical thinking. They make the important point that in order to know what exercises to do to take the next step in competence in cultivating clarity, we need to understand what stage of critical thinking we have attained.

One of the things I like about this organizations’s approach to critical thinking is that they do not use the old saw that critical thinking is logical thinking, or that critical thinking is about screening out our emotions. In fact, they make the point that we have to have and continue to cultivate a strong desire to become more competent thinkers. Continue reading The Fruit of Cultivating Clarity

The First Alchemist: Text Version

Alchemist Number One

The Year 420, After the Peace Fare Virus

A planet far from Earth

“Good night, Fritzie. I love you. Sleep well.” Hilda felt almost like what she harbored as a dream of motherhood from her far away memories of life on Earth.

“Story, mommy. Story please!” Fritzie was doing well up on the mountain. She sometimes didn’t want to admit it to herself, out of fears that the situation might change, but she felt good too.

“Ok, Fritzie. A story.

“Once upon a time, that means a long time ago, that means on Earth, before humans came to live on other planets, there was a boy named Brandon. He was a little boy, and he found all things interesting. He loved music, and making art, and playing games, but he loved the outdoors too, perhaps more than anything else.

“Even though he had only lived through about eight summers at the time of this story, he used his skills of observation to a greater advantage than most adults. He also knew how to move very quietly in nature. Between those two accomplishments, he made a lot of opportunities for himself to see birds and insects and snakes and lizards and the like up close, and in detail.

“He kept a notebook made of paper. The computer age waited in the future. He decided that every day, he would find time to walk the same path through some woods and a field where a lot of different kinds of plants grew. When he managed to sneak up on a bird or squirrel, he drew a picture of it. He did not know how to read or write, so he had only his pictures to remind himself of what he had seen.

“One day, he found a striped caterpillar on a milkweed plant. He had heard that these black-and-white-striped caterpillars eventually turned into big orange and black monarch butterflies. We don’t have butterflies on this world. The monarchs were big insects with beautiful colored wings that lived on Earth, where daddy and I were born. Brandon did not have anything to take the caterpillar home in, so he watched it munching on the milkweed, drew a picture, and left it in peace.

“The next day, he found it, or another one like it, on a milkweed plant a meter away. This time, he was prepared. He again watched it, and as he had been taught, he watched it until he noticed something different from what he had noticed they day before. Instead of paying attention to the colors of the caterpillar, like he had the day before, he watched how it moved. He made a series of pictures showing a caterpillar next to a leaf. Each picture had a little less of the leaf left. He actually got to see the caterpillar poop. It was green, the same hue as the milkweed leaves, but darker.”

Fritzie giggled softly.

Hilda continued, after gently rubbing Fritzie’s arm.

“When he was done with the drawings, he picked some milkweed leaves and put them in a jar, along with the caterpillar.

“Now most people know that when the caterpillar stops eating and attaches itself to the stalk of a plant, it’s ready to transform itself into a beautiful green chrysalis and then into a butterfly. And, most people who go to the extent to keep a caterpillar to watch, have noticed the beautiful, light green chrysalis which becomes visible after the outer striped skin falls off. Most people notice that the green tapered cylinder becomes less cloudy over time, and less green, eventually showing the new butterfly inside of a delicate glass like casing. But some people, who are really observant, have also noticed that there are tiny gold spots that form on the chrysalis as well.

“Well, Brandon was very curious. His family did not have much money, and he wondered if he could collect the gold from the chrysalis. But he did not want to hurt the butterfly.

“Every day he drew the chrysalis and the developing butterfly. He noticed that the widest part of the chrysalis had the center part of the butterfly. The head and body were wrapped around the top wide part of the chrysalis. He noticed that the gold spots were concentrated at this wide ridge. The butterfly had gold eyes and a line of gold spots along its tummy.

“Well, he decided to go back to the milkweed field to try to find more caterpillars or chrysalises. He succeeded, and had the beginnings of a gold mine! Or so he thought!

“Sadly, his attempts to use the butterfly gold mine for security to buy a new house for his family did not go very far.

“But, discouragement had no place in Brandon’s life. For the next few summers he started a new butterfly gold mine. He hoped the banker would see the light. Finally, at age ten, his parents decided that they could put off teaching him to read no longer. Brandon had been hounding them to teach him anyway. Soon, he started researching the lives of insects. He found out that the gold spots were simply the dried tears and sniffles of the monarch butterflies, royal beings, crying for their lost freedom, not yet aware of the greater freedom that awaited them in flight.

“So Brandon cried too. No gold mine, no new house. But his tears dried quickly, as he ran off to celebrate his freedom to breathe in the fresh air of the summer afternoon. And he rejoiced when he saw a sparkly gold rock! But this time he knew that the gold he would probably end up with was the gold of new knowledge and understanding of the natural world, and probably would not be accepted as a down payment for a new house!”

“Thanks mommy,” Fritzie said very sleepily. “Better let you grown ups worry about money, whatever that is.”

Hilda walked softly out of the sleeping area. Karl had a cup of tea poured for her.

“He’s asleep?”

“Will be in a minute, if not.”

She sipped her tea. “It’s hard to come up with stories that make sense on this new world.”

“What do you mean?”

“I realized too late in the story that we don’t have banks, gold, money.”

They both laughed.

“We can live without it, can’t we?”

Karl put down his tea and got up to pick Hilda up, because he could, and gave her a hug.