Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Why Are We Here?

 The older I become and the more I read, the more I wonder about origins and the why’s and wherefores’ of Life.  Specifically, I keep wondering why humans are here at all.  The most likely explanation, I know, is that we are all accidents of evolution.  That is, we began as sponges in some ocean and then began acquiring the genes that eventually gave rise to life forms, which in turn led to humans over millions of years.

But, more to the point, what, if anything is our purpose in being here?  I know the God seekers think that a spirit who seems to be in charge of all life, created humans especially as some kind of tribute, although a tribute to what I keep wondering. Does God in some way resemble humans, so that humans were created in God’s image?  Maybe so, but, if so, what might we make of such a trivial pursuit? God felt so inadequate that she had to create a human-form resembling her? And then, what, she created humans in all possible states of adequacy and behavioral patterns?

And now, we are left with Humans, many of whom seem to prefer killing as a hobby, or even a career choice.  I look around me at our current world and what do I see? Russia under that braindead human Vlad the Impaler, continuing to spend its money and its human resources trying to kill as many Ukrainians as possible.  And, then after a couple of years of that debacle, Hamas in Israeli-Land decides to move into action and kills 1400 Israeli innocents. But, really, everywhere I turn to see humans killing other humans. I need only turn around almost anywhere in America to find one or more Humans gunning down fellow American Humans, mostly all of the Innocent variety.

It seems almost anywhere you go (and there are exceptions I know) Humans appear to spend a lot of their time and energy trying to figure out ways to kill other humans. So am I to conclude that Humans are placed here explicitly to kill off other Humans?  I imagine that, eventually the Humans of the Killing variant will eventually graduate to the really big killing machines. I mean, think back to the mid 1940’s and Japan in that World War II killing game. Yeah, we were all getting really good at killing large numbers. But then we decided that rifles and bombs were mere playthings. So, we invented a really big killing device—the Atomic Bomb. And we tried them out in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  We apparently don’t really know, but estimates range between 100,000 and 200,000 Japanese Humans died as a result of the two bombings. So, two bombs and BANG, a hundred thousand or two are dead. That was so large that it actually caused the ending of that particular War.

But did it end all wars? Hahahahaha . . . no not even close.  Some estimates suggest that somewhere close to a half million Humans have died in the Middle East since the creation of Israel.  And remember, the killing machines associated with the Israeli-Middle East conflicts, also in turn produced the 911 attacks, which led in turn to more killing sprees all over the Middle East.

And we should never forget those World Wars, both I and II, where it is estimated that in the tens of millions of Humans died as a result.  See, I was born in the 1930s, and Humans have continued killing other Humans ever since, in non-stop killing sprees. And it wasn’t as though something happened to trigger those killing sprees. Nope, they have been going on ever since man acquired an understanding of how to kill other Humans.  It makes me wonder whether more sophisticated killing machines are the true end result of Human evolution, maybe even the true purpose of human evolution.

So, as I begin aging out (I am pushing on toward 89 after all) I have begun concluding that the main purpose of Humans and Human development is killing other Humans. Now, exactly why any God would choose that objective for its creatures is way beyond my Pay Grade.  It does sort of suggest to me, though, that a God is a pretty unlikely development instrument for Humans and other of our world creatures. More likely, way more likely, I would conclude that Human development is mostly accidental and is an example of evolution going seriously off course. And you know all this great fear about AI that has been growing of late? That AI might begin moving out of our control, and begin simply taking over from Humans? Well, maybe that is exactly what is going on, and that this disastrous developmental path on which Humans are proceeding, where we continue to improve our ability to kill off other Humans, may in fact be brought to an end finally by AI interventions.  Think of that. What a concept huh? Who knows, maybe AI will curtail Human Murder instincts and cause Humans to develop in some slightly more “civilized” manner. Wouldn’t that be nice? And would God be pleased, huh? She might be smiling down on us as we consider how to end AI. Funny, Huh?

Tata Humans . . . think hard about all this.  It’s time for a change.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Beginnings and Endings

The older I become, the more interesting is the question of Beginnings, or Beginning. I realize that we know a lot about both beginnings and endings. We see humans being born and then dying. And we see plant beginnings and endings all around us. And then there are all the other animals that come into our lives and then leave us, a bit sadder, even after a fairly full life.

And I have speculated fairly repeatedly about my view of human endings. That is, although we use language that implies a journey (they “left us” . . . “they are gone”) the only evidence we have suggests only cessation. When humans die, they simply cease to function. Their brains cease operating and thus nothing follows. And it would seem that is the only sensible description for all “life forms”, i.e. all animals, and all plant life, which really means all life forms.  Material forms, rocks, mountains, even planets, stars, seem to come into existence and then cease to exist in that form. Whether a star, or a mountain can be said to experience “life” would be questionable, since we currently have no way to communicate with such seemingly inanimate entities.

But back to beginnings. Yes, we see them all the time. So, we understand that humans are created, exist in a known form and function according to certain rules.  We can even trace animal life back to fairly early beginnings, say a billion years. Oddly, sponges are listed as among the early life developers.

But this complex life development is but one tracing within our overall universe of life forms and other creatures, like planets and suns.  The universe is an amazing place, and unbelievably complex. And it always brings me back to origin questions. Folks like Neil DeGrasse Tyson spend their lives investigating and then describing the early development of our universe.  And others, those of a religious persuasion, employ other less rigorous descriptive approaches. See Neil and his BFFs spend their time trying to move us back in time so as to better understand the actual origins of life. Our religious folks I guess gave up on that game fairly early.  From their perspective, a God decided to, I don’t know, wave a wand and thereby create life.  They have some pretty silly stories, like Adam and Eve that can’t withstand too many questions. Still, at some stage, according to them there was no life, and then life was formed.

Now, whatever one thinks of the religious origins' tale, when compared with Tyson’s, my mind continues to wander back in time and always arrives at the question, “If there is/was a God, Who/What created that God?  Even if I follow Tyson back further into the origin story, I arrive at the same question. How did anything develop? Go back to before the Big Bang. Something existed then and led to The Big Bang. Who/What created that something?  Was it God? But, if so, Who/What created God?

See, if God always existed, why not the universe? And if so, How/Why?

And if humans had decided on a God, and simply left it at that, then good. Why Not? But then humans had to decide how best to use that story. And so, humans invented the Tale. You know, God created everything, and, especially, created humans so as to . . . to what? So as to worship God? How vain a God would that be? And then came the tales about Death leading to human forms sitting up on clouds looking down on we still-living critters. So, apparently, we have billions of entities (no bodies, just disembodied “souls” wandering about up above us, watching our foolishness play out daily.

And we humans actually have built whole stories and vast, complex entities called churches and interpreters called priests, who tell us what to do. How crazy is that? Folks who have no clue are allowed to tell us how to live nicely. Now, mostly, we ignore all those rules, because we seem to prefer creating our own rules of living and control. We even seem to prefer killing other humans, as a form of either sport or simply a way of expressing our disgust with how life actually turned out.

And largely, we seem to have moved beyond the God-tales, and have settled on Money-Tales. Oh we still pretend to the God-thingie. Because it remains a really useful way to maintain control over other humans.  See, we create priests who pretend to know about origins and the God thing. And then other humans place themselves into positions of control over the priests, so that they can retain total control over the humans.

Oddly, this system that might have led to peace and kindness over all of humankind, instead seems to have led to destruction and inhumane controls.  Could we change that? Sure, but first we would have to decide that we did not need a God, or those folks who pretend to know/understand God.  Humans are perfectly capable of organizing peacefully and humanely, should we ever decide that was a preferable course to inhumane methods.  Of course, that might suggest that we stop killing one another. And that would be really hard for humans. We do so seem to like killing.  It’s almost as though our Gods are watching us play out a sort of Godly TV game. Peace might just be too boring to Gods.

Ah well, back to daydreaming about origins, I guess.  It’s easier than the alternatives. How about, just be nice to your neighbors. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

America At Its End

Apparently there are no longer any consequences for political actions.  We note this especially when we view republicans . And it is not that Democrats are without fault. No, but something different has occurred since Trump became their glory leader. Somehow, it is as though he erased all normal standards of human behavior, and, as a result, a different class of republicans emerged. I mean, look at the list – Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Josh Hawley, George Santos, Matt Gaetz. And now this total cretin Mike Johnson, newly christened Speaker of the House. How is he even possible? He seems to violate every principle of ordinary citizenry. Mainly, I guess, it is his devotion to Christian Autocracy that stands out. But it is almost as though he has no functioning brain.

And now, when we need intelligent leadership at all levels, it has evaporated among republicans. And they continue to make light of Joe Biden. Yet Joe Biden keeps on trying to maintain a course of decency. He continues to make every effort to promote democracy at home, and has managed to create an economy that exceeds anything we have seen in years.  Biden continues to support Ukraine against an ongoing murderous Russian invasion.  And with the Hamas killings against Israel, Biden continues to support Israel, however difficult Bibi makes such support.  As awful as it seems, the Arab militants seem to have created a Nazi-like figure in Bibi. I know, I know, that is an awful thing to say, but Bibi seems to be a different kind of Israeli—way more manic in his zeal to destroy his Arab opposition.  But, to be fair, the Arabs seem to relish in their own zeal to deal stupidly and murderously with Israel.

But Joe Biden, has continued to perform reasonably in the face of this increasingly global insanity.

He could use some help from his republican colleagues. Instead, the republican party has simply gone off the deep end into some new kind of political craziness.  I don’t understand when sanity will return to Republican Land, but maybe never, and that could begin to define the end of America. Seriously, were I 30 rather than 88, I might well now be preparing to move with my family to another Land—anyone for New Zealand? Only if the republican party begins to regain its sanity by removing Johnson and bringing back a new core of civil intelligence would I change my mind.  And removing Johnson is but the first step. Greene, Boebert, Santos, et al need to be removed also.  But that might require the assistance of the American voting public. And perhaps that is a feat beyond American capability. Anyone for New Zealand???

Saturday, October 7, 2023

America the Forlorn

 Many folks in America are becoming outraged, or worse, because of the actions of the various “leaders” in our political system, but especially the republicans. The list of corrupt, or ignorant politicos is long and seems to grow daily. Kevin McCarthy was near the top of the idiot-list, until bigger idiots decided to toss him aside. Gaetz, McConnell, Green, Boebert, Hawley, Jordan, the list goes on and on and grows daily.  Their latest faux pas was tossing McCarthy aside after it took them 15 tries to elevate him to the Speaker position.  Oddly, although they all seem to want to be elevated to high political positions within Congress, they don’t seem to have anything they want to do, in the way of legislative actions that might benefit the American people.

Ever since Trump was tossed aside by the American people, republicans seem to be diving into some canyon of darkness, in which they are either to just die, or to vote on some bill that will help to destroy the lives of ordinary Americans. And every time Biden does something to benefit America, the republicans become catatonic.

And the reporting on all this chaos keeps pointing out the foibles of various pseudoleaders within the party, or the latest corrupt actions by that dude, The Donald of Trumpland.  But I do not see much in the way of reporting on the people of America.  We seem not to want to recognize the role of ordinary Americans in elevating the idiot-malenfants of our country into positions in which they can bring chaos into our lives.

The very fact that, after all he has said and done, there remain Americans who still support Donald Trump and . . . . and, wish to re-elevate him into that position called President of the United States, is to me both amazing and sad. We have begun to talk about the final destruction of that American dream, our Nation.  That we seem headed into a canyon of despair seems obvious. But we need to stop blaming simply our corrupt, inept leaders. That the American people, having heard everything The Donald is and does, still want him as President, tells me more about our people than perhaps I ever wanted to know.  It is now the case that, were I 30, or maybe even 40, I would be searching the globe for some other Nation to which I might migrate. I think I now understand fully why so many people, including my own grandparents, decided that their own countries were inadequate and so they had to leave for another Land  . . . in this case America, the America of the 19th century.

But that America has now slipped away. It is a Land no longer in existence. America has become some other failed state. I keep thinking we are in some version of 1930s Germany. The Germans surely knew who Hitler was, but they elevated him anyway. Nazi Germany wasn’t created by some gods up in heaven. It was created by the German people, and just as surely, the American people are busily creating this America of TrumpLand, a place where corruption, ineptitude, and immorality flourish. Yes, I know it is not all Americans, but there are enough of them, and enough who vote, that they are elevating the criminal segment of our society into positions whereby they can lead our Nation.  Maybe the good folks of America, and there are still good folks, cannot be bothered to go to the polls and vote—too much trouble. And so those folks are being blessed with criminal leaders.

So, you may blame Donald Trump and his minions all you wish for the increasing mess in which we find ourselves.  But the major blame must be laid right at the feet of the American people who, knowing exactly who Donald is, continue to applaud him and his gang of thieves. If America falters and finally converts into some Land of ne’er-do-wells, it will be the American people who created that disaster.

So, America, unless you wish to destroy America, get off your asses, vote out the idiot-malenfants, and allow decency back into our Land. Only then can you look again at that Lady Liberty in the Harbor of New York and feel blessed to be an American.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Poised at the Edge

 It’s getting hard to write. I no longer know what to say about life in America.

On the one hand, as we are aging in place, Carol and I remain in reasonable health and are constantly surrounded by loving wishes from friends and family.

On the other hand, there exists in full charge, a world of America I know longer recognize as American.  Although I never lived there, I keep thinking of Germany during the 1930s, when ordinary Germans elected Adolph Hitler. Did they understand what they were doing? Were they really that angry?

And are Americans so angry that they will elect somehow the likes of Donald Trump? I mean he is under dozens of criminal indictments and, if we allow the courts to proceed, he will likely be convicted and then sentenced to live in prison for the rest of his natural life. But then we have his republican supporters, who have begun throwing out threats to life and limb to those participating in these various pursuits of justice. Rep Jordan threatening the Georgia prosecutors, and he is but one of many. That January 6th violence did not spring from nowhere. Republican abound in violence.  And there are apparently no “normal” republicans any longer. And what do I mean by “normal”? Well, I mean people who understand and believe in the rule of law and the American Constitution. They used to be people who were opposed to fascism/Nazism. Remember, Dwight Eisenhower, that dude who was a general during WW II and then served honorably as US President? Yeah, him. Well, turns out, he was a republican. Yep, I know, it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.  I think, for heaven’s sake, as awful as he might have been in my eyes, even Ronald Reagan would not understand this crew of today’s republicans. Imagine Reagan trying to understand Donald Trump. Or, worse yet, imagine a dinner party with Ronald Reagan, at one end of the table, Dwight Eisenhower at the other hand, and in the middle, Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Green, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, Josh Hawley, and a half dozen other GOP Federal wannabees, like DeSantis.  Imagine that. I imagine the two at the table heads baffled, stunned even to listen to the idiot-malenfants at the table.

So, yeah, me, a mere libtard, I’m baffled. I don’t understand what I am witnessing. At this magic age of 88, I am actually contemplating in my head, where I should consider migrating. America seems actually headed towards oblivion, in the Germany-1936 sense. I think we may be at a not-so-early stage of national destruction. And then I think of grandchildren and even great grandchildren. What are we leaving to them? I still remember sitting in our front room during the 1940s, listening to the radio, and even hearing FDR occasionally on that radio telling us about the war.  Things seems grim, but my faith in America stayed strong. We would defeat those Nazi’s, I knew. Today, I am no longer so certain.  I listen still, but now I hear idiots like Jim Jordan threaten people because they are trying to maintain law and order in a country wherein Donald Trump is trying just as hard to move us back to 1930s Germany. And then Marjorie Taylor Green tells us all about Jewish space lasers.

So, David Brooks, where are you when we need you?  Where are all the republican intellectuals, telling their “conservative” followers to oppose GOP fascism? Where are you guys?? We need you.  The hordes of American pseudo-fascists need you to help them recover and return to sanity and to a civilized life. America is waiting, poised at the edge of a nearby cliff.  Do we head over, or will we turn around and return to civilized life? I think it may be in your hands. So do not fail us.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Endings 101

Recently, three of my friends have departed, and by that I mean they have died. But see our language and our imagination prevent us from saying simply “they died”.  Instead, we have invented this massive tale about what happens after we die. I guess, depending on how far away from reality we live in our minds, we believe different things. Many, many folks say, after someone dies, that they are now watching us from up above, that is, the person is now sitting on a cloud somewhere up above us and observing us.  Now that is just too weird, but it remains fairly common.

I have now reached a magic age—88+. In December, I will reach 89 years.  Yes, I climbed aboard this thing we call life on December 17th, in the year 1934. Until recently, I was just cruising along like everyone else.  Then one day I realized that I had already surpassed in life years everyone of whom I am aware in my immediate family. That is, no one known to me as family has ever made it this many years.  A few came close, i.e., 85 years, but none, to my knowledge hit the upper 80s, or even 90.

And so, I am now looking at “life” a little differently. I understand that I may make it til 90, or, hopefully, even higher in years.  But I also understand that each day is special, a gift if you will.  And when a friend passes on, ceases to exist, I am saddened and sometimes shocked.  Recently, an especially close friend, George Stiles, died—bang out of the blue. We had just been trying to call him because we had not seen him in a while and he often stayed with us a day or two enroute to one of his kids.  And we failed to make contact by phone. So we thought maybe we just had an old telephone number, so I looked him up on the Internet, and what to my wondering eyes did appear but, “An Obituary for George Stiles”.  First, I thought, “no, it’s someone else”. But then I looked at the picture and, Yep, it was our dear friend George.

It was a shock. We could no longer speak with George. And then another reality came into my brain. George no longer exists. That is, his brain has ceased functioning, and so he no longer exists. And we can’t use these terms like, “he is gone”, or “George has departed”, or “oh my George has left us”.  And why can I not think those thoughts? Well, because, the reality of death is that the person who dies actually ceases to exist, because his brain stops functioning.  He is “dead” but he does not know he is dead, because he does not any longer “know” anything.

And, although I knew that, suddenly, with George, that reality set into my brain. Yeah, when I die, I will no longer know anything, including that I am dead. I will simply go dark, but I will not even know that everything just went dark.  No, but what will that be like? Well, nothing. Yeah, when life ceases, we do not know that life has just ceased. And that isn’t like anything that we have known throughout our long lives.

So, now, daily, I am aware of life and life things differently. When I look at a lantana flower or an hibiscus flower and then observe some critter on that flower, I watch it carefully. That life form is special because I am observing it. And it isn’t that I am now depressed thinking about life terminating. Oh I know it will and I have at least a dim understanding about cessation, but one can only dimly understand this end of life thing. Mainly, because there is nothing to understand. You are aware one second and the next you are not aware. And that is it. There is nothing else to understand.  Now we could, I assume argue about whether my conclusion is accurate, but such arguments are pointless, because we can never shed any light through evidence on the subject. So, you are free to believe the cloud thing, and I am free to believe the ending thing.  Why anyone argues about such things is quite beyond my comprehension, unless one belief gives someone control over another by that belief. Oh and that would be called religion, huh? OK, believe on folks. It’s all up to you. Whatever turns you on.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Life Goes On

 Ahhh, the weather just shifted to humane. Suddenly, it’s ok to open the windows, instead of sitting inside in fear that the heavy rain will flood the basement.  It has not done so in quite a while, But worry I will. Maybe it’s my age. I am getting on there—approaching 89 in December.

But more than the weather, was recent news of two friends and colleagues who just passed on, both a bit younger than me.  And both passed peacefully, but suddenly.  George Stiles was a colleague who became a friend, then practically a member of our family. I met George during the 1970s in the course of my work.  Then he was more than helpful to our daughter’s quest to gain entry into the world of UNC-Chapel Hill. And then George became a friend of long-standing. We saw him with some frequency as he rotated from his family home in Yarmouth, Maine to Philadelphia and South Carolina where his kids lived. George became part of our family.

And then, without warning, he died, peacefully we are told. But it is a shock nonetheless.

And then, my old boss and colleague Joe Wholey died. I was in a bit of a mess career-wise in the early 1970s, having left a secure job at Peat, Marwick, Livingston for a small firm that then collapsed. Through Joe, I managed to get a secure position at The Urban Institute, where I worked in the field of evaluation of health care programs. After five years, Joe left to join the Carter Administration, running an evaluation office in the Department of Health Education and Welfare. Joe asked me to join him, which I did. But then, Ronald Reagan took the presidency and we all had to cope with his administration. I managed for five years, but then grew fearful that I might become brain-dead working under Reagan. So, I left, as did Joe Wholey before me.

And now Joe has left this world.

And I remain behind to continue thinking about these truly good humans.

But it all brings to mind aging, and watching people drop all around me. Not just people with whom I am friends, but people of whom I am aware. We watch a lot of British TV, and especially one program that brings us to laughter even now. It is a show called “Are You Being Served?” It was on From 1972 to 1985.  I discovered recently that all of the acting cast had now died and they varied in age during that show.  So, now we find ourselves watching and loving a TV comedy series in which none of the acting cast remains alive.  I know, I know, it’s a TV show. Time passes, people age and then they die. And meanwhile I sit here, aging in place.

But then, look, our President is 81. And that idiot-malenfant Donald Trump is in his 70s, and poised to die. So, everyone is “aging in place.” But hey, they’re running our country. Well, technically, Joe Biden is running our country while Donald Trump is trying desperately to destroy our country. Two sides of the same coin I guess.

Well, I guess I will just have to suck it up and keep on truck’n. It ain’t my time yet, even if it is Mitch’s.

Meanwhile, my wonderful wife of 68 years tolerates me and loves and feeds me daily. And my kids, grandkids and Great grandkids continue to embrace life and to being me joy.  So, there you have it. Keep out of trouble and get on with this thing called LIFE.

It’s really all we have, isn’t it?