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Contemplation: “what almost inevitably follows as soon as we allow the possibility that existence is neither trivial nor incidental.” – Sven Birkerts

I’ve been contemplating this review from the Boston Review for the past three days. And there is a lot to contemplate. I resonate with many of Birkert’s observations and I want to embrace the author’s possible solutions but…maybe it’s just better to turn off the phone sometimes.

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In 1997, the disaster film The Volcano was released. A tag line was, “Hot lava’s coming!”

My daughter was four years old at the time and during a warm weather car trip with the windows down she suddenly exclaimed from the car seat in the back, “Hot lava’s coming!!….. and my hair’s a mess!!”

It became an oft repeated line in our family for years.

Tonight I was listening to Ryan Adams singing “I do not Feel Like Being Good” (2015) when he sings,

…”the sky’s on fire, your hair’s a mess”…

I like to think that Maura gave birth to this line years ago and it descended like a floating seed, landing in Ryan Adam’s mind only recently.

I highly recommend that you check out the latest Austin City Limits on pbs.org featuring Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples. It has a very Southern vibe with Bonnie opening up with some straight up blues and Mavis taking that vibe and stirring gospel into it. Bonnie then comes back to join Mavis to deliver a beautiful combination of the styles.

It’s one of those moments that when it’s over you want to pour a bourbon, walk outside, look up at the stars and smile. Because when it comes to the big questions, the answer is….we don’t know. But two women just sang from the depths of their soul and the world is much better for it.

Peace, y’all.

 

So it’s Wednesday and I left work a bit early to take John to the orthodontist. I get across town a bit faster than anticipated so I thought I would drop in to the car wash to have this Spring’s coating of pollen removed from the inside and outside of my truck. Not many folks around so I breeze in, get the $12.99 basic package, turn it over to the crew and go inside to pay.

The young woman behind the counter greets me with a smile, looks at my ticket and says, “That will be $7.99.”

Me: “No, I got the $12.99 package.”

Young woman behind the counter, with a smile: “Shhhhh…..don’t tell anyone.”

Me:  “????”

So I wander outside after the truck passes through the wash and as I’m watching the guys wipe water from the windshield and wheels I glance up at the large sign at the entrance that reads, “Mondays and Wednesdays $5 off for Senior Citizens”

Shit!

So, if you are one of those people who are always looking for a sign, let this be a lesson to you!

 

It’s the two most incongruous words in that passage that point us toward Petronius’ chief insight into pleasure and abundance: “accomplished voluptuary.” How can anyone be accomplished at taking pleasure? Isn’t that something anyone can do? Yes, under most circumstances. But under decadent circumstances, such as Trimalchio’s feast or Nero’s court, pleasure becomes cheap. It must, at first, be exhilarating to find exquisite versions of the things we most want—food, sleep, sex—right at hand. But then comes the revelation that even with unlimited means, our capacity to take pleasure is itself limited. The usual enjoyments become repetitious and dull, until we can barely taste them at all, or remember how they once tasted. And it’s at that point that Trimalchio and Petronius part ways: One flails to enjoy himself while the other becomes a scientist of pleasure. Under decadent circumstances, Petronius devises ever-more-original varie­ties of hedonism.

And there’s the key to understanding the often anesthetic effect of the Internet. Decadence doesn’t demand great wealth: Decadence is a useful way to understand any situation in which an existing pleasure becomes cheap, and it takes the ingenuity of a Petronius to fight off the boredom.

Link to the full article here.

There is a big difference between effective oversight (via regulation) and the government “being in bed” with Wall Street. Not sure that Hayek would have necessarily argued against such regulation – or social safety nets. Or, that Keynes would have argued for a command economy. But, well, there you have it…..

Very cool production, though.


(via Marginal Revolution)

I find Stewart Brand’s pragmatic approach to environmental issues refreshing. Ideologues of any stripe are tiresome at best and at worst, reek havoc on the very things that they profess to hold dear. The Edge article hyperlinked above and associate articles in the recent edition are worth a read. He can be quite provocative.

Rio Grande at Santa Elena Canyon - US to the left, Mexico to the right

The Big Bend Country is one of my favorite places to visit but few have the disposition and fortitude to call it home. I’m not one of those few. The Chihuahua desert at night is the quietest place I have ever been. And after the moon sets at night, the darkest as well. Even a brief experience here can be illuminating, even transforming.

The first morning at Wildhorse Station I rose at about 4:30, made some coffee and decided to wander out a few steps beyond the porch with a chair and take in the sky show. With all of the lights out in the cabin, I could not even see the porch rail from the door. So, after using a flashlight to move my chair out in the open, I settled in. In less than a minute I realized how noisy and bright my life is. There are sounds that are so woven into the fabric of daily existence that I don’t even notice them. The hum of a/c units and pool motors, traffic in the distance, yard maintenance equipment. When it’s gone, when the birds are still roosting, when the moon is beyond the horizon, it’s very quiet and it’s very dark. All senses become heightened and it’s a bit unsettling. Who am I kidding, I was completely unnerved for a while.

I thought of how primitive people and even modern rural people, especially before the era of rural electrification and modern roads, took this experience for granted. It’s difficult to describe but I sense that it’s the difference between participating in nature and viewing it as a spectator. Viewing nature is uplifting and often awe-inspiring but actively participating in nature has a profound effect on the human spirit. Within an hour of my active participation (just by sitting in that chair in darkness and silence, watching the starry sky and the occasional meteor flash by) I came to understand how humans developed the narratives that ultimately became religions and various spiritual traditions.

In modern, urban/suburban and even most rural areas in the U.S. we have utterly displaced this connection with nature with our technology. And it seems to be more so with each technological advance. Now, I like my modern existence and fully embrace technology and the creature comforts that it brings, but everything has a price. And the price that modern life demands may very well be the ability to connect with nature in a way that is necessary for the well-being of the human spirit.