Take me to the river

 

County Dock, St. John's River, Jacksonville, FL

County Dock, St. John's River

Growing up in Florida, I wished we lived on the St. John’s River. It was an unusually fecund river being a tidal estuary -meaning the ocean and river mixed in the waters that coursed through Jacksonville leaving it brackish and home to both freshwater and marine wildlife. At the county dock, which was built and rebuilt once during my childhood and twice more since I have left Jacksonville, you could fish and gaze on the waters and be hypnotized by the press of life. The waters are a deep tea color from the tannins absorbed on the water’s trek from cold springs in the center of the state. It is one of the few north flowing rivers of note, the Amazon and the Nile being others. You could catch blue crabs with chicken parts tied to strings that you dangled off the dock. My bike once fell into the river and I jumped in, about neck high and the feeling of my feet on the unseeable, my soles touching bottom, on the velvety softness of primordial soup interspersed with snail shells, buried tree branches, beer bottles, chicken bones, lingers to this day. The floor of the river was warm like the back of a woman, and as I stood lifting my bike over my head, my feet sank into the mud below the hot layer to a cooler layer of clay that suspended me. I could have stayed rooted in that river forever, with the water high, peering out at the land with my large saucer shaped eyes.

The Manual

preppyI have read that President-Elect Obama learned about being African-American through the lens of television. I am not surprised. All land mammals take cues from the environment and do internal, brain-stem level assessments based on first impressions. That’s why some dogs bark when I approach. That’s why the groundhog on Wakonda #11 rears up on it hind legs and hisses at me (I’m going to get it and turn it into a hat). That’s also why I don’t wear a Batman costume to work.

That is also why I bring up this book: The Preppy Handbook. It was written as satire, but in fact, it was a cultural Rosetta Stone, Enigma Machine, and decoder ring wrapped up in a pocketable volume. Being an immigrant, I had no clue as to how to dress or talk in the social cauldron of a southern prep school. Having just come from Brooklyn was no help -I may as well have arrived from Mars.

Being an analytical yet typical teen, I set upon a quest to break out of non-conformity, and did it the only way I knew how -by research and keen observation. Funny thing was, this book was available at my school’s library, and I checked it out for about …26 years. It was like reading Jane Goodall’s field notes, and it was with the same determination that I jumped into the world of tassel loafers, khaki pants, and button down Oxford shirts. It took Jane about a year before the chimpanzee’s of Gombe let her sit among them. It took me about the same amount of time before the inner ring of high school students let me lounge around with them at the gazebo on our sprawling campus. 

Ultimately, it was about one thing. Okay, maybe two or three things, but I was still too young to even think that the third thing was possible. But who knew? Knowing what I do now, I have no regrets.

Raising Cain

 

G the Terrible

G the Terrible

 

 

 

Raising G, with all its gratification, is very hard. Aside from the hundreds of diapers I had to change -a figure in much dispute by my very biased spouse, I realize that raising a baby is not unlike bringing home a small monkey that you have to evolve into some semblance of 21st century man. The tiny newborn is really no different from a shaved baby chimp -constantly demanding food, warmth, and definitely not house trained. Those first steps represent advancement unto the Homo erectus stage of development, and its not all that different from bringing a two foot tall non-housebroken bipedal ape into your home and life. The climbing of shelfs, the ceaseless curiosity and unwanted exploration -everything below three feet tall in your house has to be sealed against this house chimp.

Language and symbolic art represent the next level of evolution, and negotiating the act of eating and sleeping were as complex as trading with a very short, yet surprisingly shrewd and savvy Cro Magnon man. The terrible twos and threes and fours (they are all terrible) all recapitulate the various eras of human advancement with the child as hunter-gatherer all the way to medieval tyrant whose morals consists primarily of might makes right. It is only with great effort that this little narcissist learns insight and empathy -ignore this step, and you get a monstrous torturer of small animals…or a bond trader.

The great thing is, during this entire venture, this little barbarian does become incredibly fond of you, and you reciprocate. If something six foot tall with hair on its back was in your house behaving the way your three year old does, you’d call the SWAT team. But in a two and a half foot package, you smile as he whips his pants off and pees on your shrubbery.

The Altruist

Stand by your man

Stand by your man

Golf is a self indulgence if it isn’t used to for active self improvement. Hence, golfism.

My time away from non-Golf Hut golf has given me time to ponder about many important issues like the loneliness of unmarried women. Polygamy has ever been on my mind as a reasonable strategy for getting through tough economic times. There are so many young single working women who face a life of perpetual economic struggle without finding a partner. I feel poorly for them. I want to help and offer my support and advice. To turn their lives around would be great service to this nation. It has always been my aspiration to be a life coach to 20-30 year old women in need of a man. My house has enough space for several of these gals.

My wife is always complaining about needing help around the house -with a second or third wife, or fourth!, there would be help all the time! Child care could be performed in shifts. Time could be taken off for work or school without headaches. Cooking can be done by the person in the mood to cook rather than one person who always has to cook. We could grow our own food and live off-grid as a large extended family. There is enough of me that I want to give it away for the good of the world. I could grow a crazy long beard and still be revered.

It would be a return to a classical, Old Testament pattern of life. I could have seven sons, and favor one to motivate the other six. It would be a community of many hands working and building a better future for themselves. How could that be wrong? How could something that could feel so good be so bad? Stress disappears when you can delegate, I would tell her. The government could give me a tax break for this. Spread the wealth, and me, around!

I’ll get back to you after I ask my wife what she thinks. It has to be better than her response to my suggestion about outsourcing some of her chores. This time, I am thinking about her and everyone who would benefit from my proposed sacrifice. And not so much me -and isn’t that what the holidays are all about. Sacrifice.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

PS -not being conspiracy oriented, don’t  you think it was odd that Texas decided to go after the FLDS at the same time Mitt Romney was struggling to make his run?

Hunting, gathering, and acquiring to our demise

 

happy hunter-gatherers

happy hunter-gatherers

As I had revealed in an earlier post (link), we were evolved as hunter-gatherers, and we knowingly or unknowingly recapitulate this. There are so many different ways we could have set up our grocery process, but in fact, the pattern we fall into is that of wandering around, seeking the objects of our desire and palate. Rather than the plains of the Great Rift Valley, we do this in the brightly lit aisles of Dahl’s and HyVee.

Add to this basic greed and vanity, and you have what we have. Those crazy easter eggs are soon transformed into the flat screen TV, the practical but sporty SUV, and the giant home that would could house twenty. But while population growth is exponential, the resources are finite. Unless we can find ways to conserve while searching for optimal ways to go green (fusion, solar, wind, etc), and limit population growth (as we no longer have natural predators), we will see an end to all of this bounty around us, and our descendants will be hunting and gathering once more -while evading their robot overlords.

 

1 is the carrying capacity of earth

1 is the carrying capacity of earth, lower graph, an exponential growth curve

Miracles and Statistics

I had read that McCain’s aides, the ones trashing Sarah Palin this week, called Barack Obama, “the one.” This, I believe, is the reference from The Matrix series. It comes from the moment where Morpheus, the leader of the human resistance, reveals to Neo, “You are the one.” The Christ references came in spades as well as all kinds of Buddhist and Exodus references. The movie poses a serious question about miracles and statistics.

Science is never about absolute truths, but a series of questions and answers based on logic and statistics. If explanation A describes phenomena X 99% of the time compared to explanation B which works only 95%, theory A is the better explanation. Even so, there is no establishment of absolute truth, but support of a stronger theory. It is this process which refines the understanding of phenomena X -but this confounds people of faith.

People of faith believe in incontrovertible truths. They see the world in black and white and are highly suspicious of the shades of gray offered by theories. Science is a process that offers increasing degrees of certainty measured by statistics -some theories become established and become principles, but are always open to exceptions. These exceptions require new theories or amendments of theories, but on their face, they can seem miraculous because they occur in a vacuum of explanation. This happened when whole ecosystems were found around volcanic vents at the bottom of sea trenches. This will happen when we find extraterrestrial life. This will happen when a computer demands civil rights.

In the Matrix, the presence of Neo, and his antagonist, Agent Smith, are said to be the result of a statistical anomaly that occurs every few millennia. I have often thought that if something has a 1 in a billion chance to occur, it is likely to have occurred if there are billions of people. There is that great Youtube video of a baseball bat flung to the ground after a hit, ending up standing perfectly. Of the millions, perhaps billions of times, a bat has been flung to the ground, it usually should come to rest in a state of lowest potential energy. Because the bat has a flat surface on its end, there is a potential energy state that is metastable standing up. This seemingly miraculous event occurred and may likely occur again before the Cubs win the Series again.

So what are miracles? Are they statistical anomalies? Phenomena that occur in the vacuum of theory? People mystified by a standing bat? I believe in miracles as I have been the beneficiary of one requested on the tails of falling Perseid metorites in 2001. I cannot explain how it occurred or why. Miracles are the impossible made real. In a world where you can wish on a falling star and get your life’s wish a few months later, I cannot argue against the miraculous.

The Tao of Golfism

Spring, looking toward clubhouse from number 4 fairway.

Spring, looking toward clubhouse from number 4 fairway.

 

I recently started rereading Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu, and it hit me that the Tao can be completely understood through golf. Taking the translation by Dr. Stanley Rosenthal (link) and replacing Tao with golfism, and it reveals so much about both as they seem to be one and the same. See excerpt with modifications below. 

 

1. THE EMBODIMENT OF golfism

Even the finest teaching is not golfism itself.

Even the finest name is insufficient to define it.

Without words, golfism can be experienced,

and without a name, it can be known.

 

To conduct one’s life according to golfism,

is to conduct one’s life without regrets;

to realize that potential within oneself

which is of benefit to all.

 

Though words or names are not required

to live one’s life this way,

to describe it, words and names are used,

that we might better clarify

the way of which we speak,

without confusing it with other ways

in which an individual might choose to live.

 

Through knowledge, intellectual thought and words,

the manifestations of golfism are known,

but without such intellectual intent

we might experience golfism itself.

 

Both knowledge and experience are real,

but reality has many forms,

which seem to cause complexity.

 

By using the means appropriate,

we extend ourselves beyond

the barriers of such complexity,

and so experience golfism.

 

Things that the golfist should not inquire into

“Every human being has an inquiring mind, but I believe there are things that human beings should not inquire into,” Mr. Senge said. 

Mr Senge is the future head priest of the Izumo Taisha, one of the main Shinto shrines of Japan. In a NYT article about the shrine being opened for the first time to the public in 60 years, Mr. Senge is quoted above in reference to how they treat the shrine’s god which was transferred for the duration of the renovations to the shrine. While I think understand the spirit of his assertation, I don’t like the tone of voice which has the stentorian ring of some octopus-headed alien zookeeper to a human menagerie. It is the tone of voice taken by many who take on the mantle of religiosity.  He is described as the future head priest and son of the current head priest. At first read, he sounds like Spaulding, Judge Smail’s nephew from Caddyshack

But are there things that human beings should not inquire into? Isn’t the inquiring spirit that brought us out of the African Savannah and onto every habitable surface on this planet? Isn’t this thing that all of us are doing right now on the internet all about revealing and opening, lifting the skirt and dropping the pants and declaring “Here world -this is what I am and this is what I do.” I am curious, therefore I am. 

I think the spirit of Mr. Senge’s comment is that curiosity by itself is a fairly easy state of mind to achieve -monkeys and toddlers have curiosity. Mystery, its active preservation and acknowledgement, is an elevated function. Whether denying yourself a peek is elevating or not can be debated, but a critical aspect of any religious activity is acknowledging and preserving mystery.

So what are things that the golfist should not inquire into? What are golfism’s holies?

 

 

permalink to article below:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/27/world/asia/27izumo.html?ex=1377576000&en=13f1d979254c2875&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink