Thoughts

I’m an old gear head, I confess, having owned cars and bikes from all over the place (UK, USA, Italy, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Sweden), and have enjoyed making them work when they wouldn’t (which for a few was a considerable percentage of the time), but lately I have been finding the idea of never buying gasoline again pretty appealing. Genuinely fun to watch the startling advances in battery tech and electric motor design that are going into the new cars! We’re past the famous “tipping point” for electric transport now, and the myriad advantages of adopting are daily more obvious- virtually no maIntenance re: oil changes et al (at last!), charging at home so effectively no stopping for electrons except on long trips, quiet running, virtually no fire danger with the new batteries (something like 60% less than gas or diesel), and maybe best of all, no more carbon dioxide and other nasty stuff from an ICE engine (even if your electricity comes from coal, it's a lot better). Fleets will be replacing their cars, so second hand ones will be within reach of just about everyone. I’ll continue to tinker with my old Alfa, but just for fun. Yeah, I know, better yet to have no car at all, but for now…maybe a car that fills its own battery from the sun- take that, oil monopolies!

On reflecting on the indictments of Donald Trump: do the vast majority of people of the US who despise him not have a say in it? This man has poisoned the well, a malevolent sociopathic criminal who has figured out a way to convince people that the government is trying to take away their religion, and should rely on him to protect them, all the while protraying himself as a victim. To me this is the crux of the matter, as any travel around the country will convince you. When you have religious fanaticism against you, you are up against those who will simply not believe anything you say, regardless of its veracity or, in the case of climate change, necessity. And, as Chamberlain so notoriously discovered in the 30's, no amount of diplomacy will be entered into in good faith, as we so clearly see in the endlessly hostile personages of congress people like Jordan or Greene, not to mention De Santis et al. Biden's plan to deal with this appears to be to heal the economy and thereby get the public support to continue, much as FDR did. I hope he (and all of us) have the strength to make that happen.

I have been reading Elizabeth Marshall Thomas’ book “The Harmless People” again after many years (I discovered a very tattered copy on my bookshelf that I have had for many decades while looking for something else), and once again was completely overwhelmed with respect and awe for the people she writes about. Our ancestors. Her beautifully written account of her travels in what is now Namibia in the Kalahari Desert with her small family and a few bands of hunter gatherers in 1957 is not only a vivid and poetic account of the lives of members of arguably the most successful culture in human history, one that survived for tens of thousands of years, but a reminder of what we have lost in our headlong rush into the technologically driven labyrinth of an overcrowded and relentlessly acquisitive society here in the West. Her brother John was with her on this trip, and along with her parents, made some ground breaking films documenting these remarkable people, and then returned almost two decades later in 1974 to revisit the same area and reconnect with his friends there. In this later film, made with Robert Young for The National Geographic television series, he discovers that things have changed, and not for the better, but that the spirit of joy in the face of incredible deprivation is still strong. The snippets of music that were recorded in the making of this latter film (alongside a larger score by Walter Scharf) are among the most beautiful I have ever heard, both simple and elegant, reflecting the natural world in voice and rhythm, somber and playful, and predating the polyphonic music of the ancient highland Congolese to the north; weaving in and out, effortlessly creating patterns that seem woven of light and air, even as the people experience terrible deprivation and thirst. We are all still descendants of that sound, whether we know it or not. Much has happened since then, so this is in a sense a poignant look into the past. Here is a link to the latter film: (the music starts at about 28:00) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocR6f1ITshA

Driving in America: Always the big SUV or the empty pickup truck the size of a cruise ship just behind you, impatient to rush ahead to the next light or stop sign. No joy in the act of driving itself, just a headlong push to be somewhere else, dragging 5000 pounds of steel along for the ride, almost out of spite that anyone would dare to be in the way. HAGG- haulin' air and guzzlin' gas. Most of the rest of the traffic is one incarnation or another of the HotWheels toys of the 70's and 80's, translated into big metal and plastic cubicles racing here and there. I think I'll be glad when this particular fad is over.

All in all, though, this is really a very hopeful time, as It feels as though changes that have been coming for decades are actually becoming possible- all based on the idea, as opposed to the previous notion that people are fundamentally greedy and untrustworthy, that we are in fact not that way at all, that we have instead evolved to coexist with each other as neighbors and friends. Science continues to back this up, that while there are a few who always go to the dark side, the great majority treat each other with decency and good will. The main thing is to resist the fear, and to remember that what you actually see is the reality, not the news of some far away place habited by strange and dangerous people who are not of your clan.Those strange and dangerous people are, it turns out, pretty much the same as us, getting slong with each other as best they can. It will take courage to push for these new (old) ideas, but we have been courageous before. A better world awaits.

The people of our country are struggling to feel a restoration of balance and fairness, after a sense of betrayal by the institutions that formerly were trusted, institutions that have been compromised and corrupted by big money and cynical politicians They have done their best to remember the principles of decency and fairness that underlie the foundations of the republic, and of the amazing and unique idea of democracy, even as the ugly truth of slavery and avarice are revealed to have also been part of that foundation. In the process they have become wary of promises of redemption and safety, and a long period of recovery is going to be necessary for them to regain their confidence in themselves and their fellow countrymen. Like all victims of violence, the memory of the last few years will weigh heavily on them, but with the strength that comes from a faith in each others’ shared humanity, there can be a new and perhaps more sober determination to defend themselves from this kind of criminal behavior in the future, and a dedication to honor the courage and love that pushes back against hate and terror whenever it threatens to destroy them. There is an end to the pain and fear that comes from this kind of experience, and it comes from working together to rediscover the goodness in the world and the joy in each others company, and a dedication to counter ignorance with understanding, and mendacity with truth.


The fundamental problem facing us all (and by that I mean all of of the family of life on our tiny planet) is the great taboo, the immense sacred cow of dogmatic religion.  Reasonably intelligent humans can come under its sway and voluntarily, under intense peer pressure, enter a black closet of willful ignorance and close the door behind them, sinking into a static and voluptuous blindness that ultimately may condone unspeakable acts of cruelty and vengeance against everything around them. Religion, it must be said, was created by the mind of man for a number of reasons- to explain a terrifying and confusing world, to provide the comfort of companionship and familiarity, and to give a structured environment in which to raise children. Of course there are others, but these seem to be the basic ones. These grow out of what might be thought of as our species’ psychological evolution. The essential difficulty arises when myths that support dogma are taken literally.. poetically, creation stories are fun, but they are factually untrue. A god that creates everything is a pleasant enough notion, but it is superstitious nonsense, and an extremely dangerous ruse when posited against the astonishing fact of evolution. The idea that “morality” is somehow absent without religion is absurd- it comes as a natural result of our altruistic and cooperative nature. And as for war, religion is more often than not the tribal inspiration and emotional excuse.Wrapped up in all of this is religious extremism’s cover for those dark souls who lust for power, and who are ever waiting in the wings to capitalize on our worst inclinations. We are alone with our meager intelligence in the solar system, and too far from anything else to do much more than observe from afar. Why should we not greet with enthusiasm and wonder what is our heritage, instead of falling back on ideas that have lost their usefulness to us as a creature among other equally sacred creatures on our most beautiful and fragile world?

Of course, another way to look at it is as the ultimate con, and Americans love cons more than just about anything. Look at the bozo who started Scientology- act in all manner of morally reprehensible ways, amass a spectacular fortune, fleece the unsuspecting and the gullible, gain power and influence and… best of all, no taxes!

Are we ready for the Kool-Aid?