money

   Stones are not money.  Poems are not money.  I’ve tried them both.  Pieces of paper are money though.  Especially the ones covered with intricate designs and the face of a famous dead person.  We have agreed on that, ‘Yes pieces of paper can be money, poetry and stones cannot’ .   We have certified and assigned value to the pieces of paper, the poetry not so much. 

We have created entire bureaucratic departments for the purpose of investigating what happened to our money in case someone takes it or if we lose it, they’re called police departments.  We have entire business corporations dedicated to tracking our money, where it goes and what it buys, they’re called credit card companies.  Money is the highest good, valued above all things.  We have built temples to it called banks and we spend most of our time pursuing it or worrying about it.  It is our religion.  

   When we speak about the ’economy’ we invoke our most sacred principles because it has to do with how the money flows.  “It’s the economy stupid” was Bill Clinton’s rallying cry that won him the presidency in 1992.  Having a job and ‘making money’ is tantamount to being a good person.  Reference to the ‘Dow’, (which sounds exactly like ‘Tao’, the ancient Chinese philosophy of balance and harmony) is a ritual of the nightly news shows.  ‘The economy’ and ‘the Dow’ are terms that have iconic status and stand like the great pillars of the parthenon supporting our societies and our world view.  So let’s take a look at money and see what it’s worth.

   For most of our history there was no money and no accumulation of wealth.  Everything you owned you carried with you as you moved thru the landscape of your Paleolithic world.  Everything you needed you made from scratch on the spot from materials you found in situ, wood and stone, plant fiber and shells from the rivers, animals from the forest.  Nobody was rich and nobody was poor.  Wealth was in the information you had gathered about the environment, the jokes you could tell after dinner around the campfire, the wisdom you could share, some insight into how the world worked.  That made you famous.  It was the currency of the time coded and archived in the form of story and dispensed whenever needed, deposits and withdrawals, the Federal Reserve Bank of the time.  Stories are what we used to exchange value and bring meaning into our lives 50,000 years ago. 

   Of course those early tribal humans did not live in isolation.  There were other bands nearby and there was trade between them – barter.  I’ll give you this buffalo skin for those obsidian stones, I’ll give you two strong chickens and a rooster for 6 good Hickory branches strong enough to make bows.  Agreeing to a price was part of the process and a form of socialization.  It was a chance to get to know the neighbors.  But the main problem with bartering is that the value of two chickens and a rooster is very much in the mind of the beholder as are the 6 boughs strong enough to make bows, therefore the exchange rate was never guaranteed and neither was the exchange.  Nevertheless, barter was our first means of assigning value to objects in order to trade them.  

   Commodity money, on the other hand, used common essential items such as salt or tobacco or seeds as a unit of exchange.  It replaced barter because of the convenience of having an exchange rate that everyone agreed to.  One example of commodity money is in prisons where things are bought and sold with cigarettes since currency is not allowed.  Curiously, back during the days of the American colonies, tobacco was also used as a currency.  This idea came from the Indians, of course, who used not only tobacco but wampum (beadwork) as an exchange medium.  Chocolate beans (cacao) were used as money by the Aztecs and the Hudson’s Bay Company, during their economic colonization of the Canadien north, created an exchange rate for trade with the Indians that looked like this:

• 5 pounds of sugar cost 1 beaver pelt
• 2 scissors cost 1 beaver pelt
• 20 fish hooks cost 1 beaver pelt
• 1 pair of shoes cost 1 beaver pelt
• 1 gun cost 12 beaver pelts

   Coins eventually replaced the commodity because it was much easier to carry around and didn’t smell.  It’s value was based on the metal it was made from – silver dollars and gold doubloons.  Back in the day, the Romans made coins out of bronze which had a set weight and an intrinsic value – it could be melted down to make tools or weapons.  

   Then along came representational money.  Money that had no value except what you believed it had; just a piece of paper with writing and symbols in some grand fashion and the famous dead person’s face on it.  This represented a certain amount of gold or silver which you now owned as attested to by the piece of paper. You were, in fact, entitled to go to Fort Knox and ask for your $20 in gold if you chose to.  The US currency was representational money based on the gold standard until 1933 when Congress nullified it 

   It’s also called fiat money which means it has value simply because the government (and God) says it does.  ‘Fiat’ is the Latin word for “let it be done”. There’s no gold or silver backing it up anywhere, it’s value rises and falls based on the confidence people have in their government (and God).  Even today, on the American dollar bill, right there in capital letters floating in the sky between the eagle and the all seeing eye; “In God We Trust” it says confidently.  Without trust, money as a financial tool doesn’t work so it helps if you can enlist God’s endorsement as well as that of the Federal Reserve Bank.  The Federal Reserve figures prominently in the design of the one dollar bill also, appearing overhead on the front side watching over George Washington.

   Now we have virtual money, essentially digital data zooming around in the form of numbers inside a computer network connected to other computer networks keeping track of our credits and debits, our stock market purchases and our Amazon orders.  You never see anything, only the quiet obsequiousness of the glowing computer screens.  That ubiquitous plastic we carry around in our medicine pouch has become money, and with just a touch, in just a flash it’s done, the exchange, the magic has happened.

   And the evolution hasn’t stopped there, crypto currency is the latest and most abstract form of money.  It has created an entirely new class of currency, a new way of imagining it.  By solving a complicated mathematical problem called an algorithm, value is assigned to a person (computer address) that discovered the answer.  It’s really hard to do, takes alot of computing power, and the problems get exponentially harder as new crypto coins are mined, so if you can do it, you should get a reward right?  That’s called a crypto coin or a bit coin or any one of the many crypto currencies out there.  But the point is you can’t just create money willy nilly like the Federal Reserve Bank, it’s got to be difficult in order to have value. The network then records each transaction on an open source block chain which is a piece of encrypted code that is distributed to the millions of people with their millions of computers who are part of that block chain all over the world.  No one knows who they are or how to reach them so no one (not even AI) can steal it (theoretically).  Got it?  It moves seamlessly, effortlessly from one computer to the other anywhere in the world with no bank fee and no oversight and with complete anonymity.  The validity of the transaction is maintained by the independent, connected computers all holding the same code.  Shared computing, creates the trust for cryptocurrency.  

   So that’s the history of money.  We are really into money, and always have been ever since we invented it 12,000 years ago back in the Fertile Crescent to keep track of the grain coming and going from the royal granaries.  It has fascinated and enchanted us as if it were imbued with magical powers.  In 1519 Cortez landed on the shores of Mexico with 400 men, 6 ships and 88 horses.  Within two years he had defeated the mighty Aztec empire, captured its emperor, Cuauhtemoc, and availed himself of all it’s riches.  That story is well told elsewhere and it’s a fantastic one, but at some point in the saga one of the conquered nobles, probably just before he was about to get his head cut off, asked Cortez a question, “What is it that motivates you Spaniards?”.  Cortez is said to have replied, “Spaniards have a disease and it is only cured by gold.”  The disease has not been cured, however, instead it has become a world-wide pandemic.  

   “Money, it’s a gas, grab that cash with both hands and make a stash”, said Pink Floyd in their 1973 classic ’Money’.  And even though it’s value as an exchange medium is unquestioned, money has one serious liability – you can never have enough of it.  It’s very existence implies imbalance and in that way it has affected and infected our civilizations since the time of the Romans and before.  Wars were fought for it (and still are).  People get divorced, discarded and commit suicide for the lack of it.  We build monuments to it: glorious business towers in the middle of our most prestigious cities and two blocks away the street people are living on park benches, discarded by society, demented.  Wall Street, the IMF, the Council of Economic Advisers, the World Economic Forum are all top level organizations, they direct the economic currents of out time, they hold together the very fabric of our societies, they see everything in terms of money. 

   Money has its benefits.  It’s a useful servant and has allowed us to grow rich and build empires but it also has a corrosive effect.  While we exchange our money for goods and services we also codify our darker urges to control and dominate and accumulate as much money as we can.  Not that many people even think about that when they’re shopping at the mall.  It’s an enjoyable experience, seeing the shops, deciding on what to buy, making the currency exchange and thank you and walking out with a bag on your arm.  But if you follow the flow of money all the way back thru the wholesalers and the dealers and the transporters and the original producers and everybody else who had a part to play in the manufacture of that item, it will end up somewhere that mother nature got robbed and everyone else got paid for robbing her.  

   Maybe we should re-evaluate our current from of currencies.  Are there better ways of doing this?  Are there, in fact, other forms of currency that can be used, in reality, not like some wacky urban bohemian poet trying to get a free latte for a poem at the cafe?  It seems to me that ‘currency’ is something we imagine.  We imagine it to be real, so it is real.  What else could we imagine that’s not so prone to engendering greed?  Are we afraid to imagine something like that?  That might be the first question.  I can imagine it and it’s a world very much like the one in which our Paleolithic ancestors lived. I can imagine a world where wisdom and stories are considered treasures and can be traded for goods and services in kind – usually other stories probably, but practical things too.  What is a potlatch if not a great helluva party where you give things away to your friends to celebrate how rich you are?

   Without money there would be no economy and no means of becoming wealthy and that is the point of it, isn’t it?  To better oneself and prosper and isn’t that measured by money?  ‘Economy’, is derived from two Greek words that translate as ’household’ and ‘manage’.  We use the word economy to describe the production, distribution and consumption of goods as expressed in a currency, the ‘dollar value’.  But the economy also implies the individuals, businesses, organizations and government agencies that maintain and guide the process.  It also includes the raw materials we take from the earth (called resources in the Economics textbooks) to create the products that we buy and sell.  Economy is also work, the work that people do (and horses and cows) and the money invested in those people, horses, cows, robots, what have you.  These days machines do most of the work and we just manage them – in the advanced countries anyway.  The dividing line between who lives in a first world country and who lives in a third world country is just that.  How much labor is being done by human beings laboring away and how much is done by machines.  This division of labor is the new caste system.  By this standard are ye judged oh nations of the world.  If you’ve got robots building electric cars you are first world, if you’re farming rice by hand or maybe with one buffalo in the Mekong delta then you are third world and poor.

   If we were ‘managing our household’ in the original Greek meaning of it then that would be really good but in reality we are operating an economic system that is based on continuous growth (capitalism) while we live on a planet that has limited resources.  The consequences of that situation are only now coming to bear.  We’re going to have to find another planet to exploit or learn how to live sustainably on this one, otherwise the consequences are going to be catastrophic – extinction.  That’s what happens when a biosphere is no longer able to sustain a species.  It has happened over and over again in the history of the earth and it is happening right now for many species from frogs to insects to birds.  And that’s just the animals, who knows what plants are disappearing.  For sure the diversity of the biosphere is being reduced, genomes are being erased.   Our safety net, our life line, the biosphere that supports us with its complex interaction of all the different organisms is being weakened, by us the humans. Man we are something else, up here on top of the food chain, looking out over everything.  What we don’t realize is that  we are dependent on all the organisms beneath us on the food chain to stay alive on top of the food chain.  We’re not managing this well.

   Inventing an economy that doesn’t depend on raping the planet is a project ripe for somebody to take on.  Maybe someone like William Kamkwamba, a teenager from Malawi, who built a wind powered generator out of bicycle parts to provide electricity for his village and then got a scholarship to finish his education so he could return home one day and help bring electricity to all of Malawi.  Or someone like Muhammad Yunus the Pulitzer Prize winning economist from Bangladesh who came up with the idea of micro-lending to empower people who couldn’t qualify for bank loans.  With fifteen or twenty dollars they were able to start up their own businesses whether it was selling their garden produce in the market or weaving on their home loom or some other good idea.  They just needed a little boost and the Grameen Bank, which he founded, has issued millions of loans to people (mostly women) to help them get started.  Now they have enough money to raise their standard of living: send their kids to school or repair the leaky roof, hook up electricity and have a light and a blender.  And not only in Bangladesh but in other countries as well, this system is working.  

   Just like electric cars and alternative energy took off slowly and built momentum, the benefits of the new economy will gradually become obvious to all.  Even the rich capitalists need a stable world to operate in.  Nobody wins if everybody loses.  More and more people will experience the benefits of a new economy and like it.  The great shutdown of 2020 brought more people out into the streets of my neighborhood with their kids and their dogs than I have ever seen before in my life.  People were HAPPY.  It was weird.  One of my neighbors began putting their lawn chairs out by the street in the evening around 4 or 5 o’clock to watch their kids riding their bikes and to visit with their neighbors across the street who were also in their front yard sitting in their lawn chairs watching their kids playing in the street.  

   Anyways that’s what I think about money.

green trees blue sky

The way I was raised, nature was something to look at, not necessarily something to interact with.  It was there but it had no bearing on our lives unless there was a storm or a tornado, then it was something to be feared.

About the closest we ever came to interacting with nature was our annual excursion into the countryside to see how the corn was doing.   Up to your knees by the 4th of July was considered an acceptable height and indicative of a good crop in southern Michigan.  I also remember my mother’s lone fashion advice as a kid – never wear green with blue.  I accepted it as some kind of an absolute as I did all else at that age – the plan of salvation as described by the Baptist church, public school education with its heroic stories: Christopher Columbus discovering the New World, the taming of the American west, manifest destiny; and a code of ethics that forbade drinking, smoking, playing cards, going to the movies or dancing.  My father was the minister of the small Baptist church in the small village where we lived and it was important to bear a witness to the community and a standard for the congregation which was also small.

It was not until many years later that I questioned my mom’s fashion advice.  I noticed, in fact, that blue and green were everywhere – the trees against the sky for example as they are in my backyard and how beautiful that is.  I discovered movies and marijuana and ecstatic disco dancing.  I never did learn how to play cards but blue and green became my favorite color combination.  I also discovered that nature is alive and interacting with us all the time.  It has a presence that is both wonderful and uncompromising.  It has wisdom and can teach us things.  It’s not the brute force that needs to be tamed and manipulated like my puritan forbears believed.  It is inside of us, it is part of us and we are part of it.

When I started this book I wanted to talk about ‘what is human’ and approach it from as many perspectives as I felt I was capable of.  From whatever source I could wring some insight and bring it to bear was fair game.  It’s Spring, once again, where I started this essay.  I look over the past year and feel my own humanity as a timeline.  The years pass slowly but the days pass more quickly and minutes slip by almost unnoticed and the seconds – well they become a moment where this lifetime is happening, where I can view the timeline from.  This view is also a function of humanity, the most intimate one.  To notice that I have a lifetime – that is to say both life and time – is the beginning and the end of the story.  I don’t think anything can be added to that, maybe decorated just for fun, edited a little for the telling of the story, learned from and accepted with gratitude but there it is – a lifetime.  How human is that?

The bog filter flows into the pool.  The watercress is going to seed.  The water runs over the gravel bed and through the roots of the water plants.  It rises up from the bottom where I have laid the plastic pipes with holes drilled in them.  It flows from the main pipe that reaches all the way back underwater to the pump at the other end of the pool.  The pump receives water from the current at the surface spiraling down to meet it, flowing from the waterfall at the end of the bog filter.  Two turtles and 10,000 fish are sustained here, the swamp plants, the pickerelweed, occasional frogs singing, the croaking toads; as to the microbial life in the water I can only guess, the algae in abundance and the waterfowl that come to fish, the raccoons.  The doves that flutter down to drink here and to bathe should also be included and the wind that ministers to the broad leafed elephant ear and the trees above and the sunlight emitted from our nearby star 93 million miles away and the sky itself which is reflected in the pool as if it loves to gaze at itself and every ripple and every shimmer of light cast by those ripples belongs to the nature pool.  And I belong to it too because I have loved it.   I have jumped in it, I have consorted with it and taken its coolness into my bones.  I have felt relief and pleasure and now that this story is done I feel gratitude for the gift it has been – my little backyard suburban nature pool.

Everything will change, as night becomes day and becomes night again.  The stars will burn out and the universe itself will disappear one day, I suppose.  But I do believe that true pleasure and appreciation does not disappear but endures forever somehow, somewhere in a nature pool of its own making and there I will dwell, quite at ease, quite comfortable, quite familiar.

hunter/gatherers and apartment dwellers

The Aborigines of Australia make their environment into a brain that remembers by imbuing it with the spirit of their heroic ancestors and their adventures. This billabong is where Rainbow Serpent went into the ground, this pile of rocks is where Kangaroo and Dingo danced, this cliff is where Blue-tongue Lizard bit off a leaf from the Boab tree, chewed it up and spit it into the air where it became the stars could have been some of their myths and in this way they remember and know where to go and what to do. They call it the dreamtime. How else could you live in a huge desert, hundreds of square miles, with an average rainfall of 8″ a year and remember all the details of where water could be found and where the animals might be. They had no writing, only memory and art: rock paintings, body tattoos, the carved stick, stories, dance.

Nowadays we have iphones and convenience stores and roadways and airports but we rarely notice our surroundings. It’s just a set where the action happens, not even a place. It doesn’t even have a story it’s just something we arrange. We dream at night of strange things, unbelievable events, impossible connections, maybe beautiful maybe weird and then wake up to daytime and routine and some old same old.

The book I’m writing, the Ancient Book of Magic Secrets, is about what is human. Since we are one we would be the ones to know right? And we have been for 300,000 years or so, most of that time living more like the Australian Aborigines than modern day urban cave dwellers, I mean apartment dwellers. What a range of experiences, what a palette of colors we have to express ourselves with. Whatever it is to be human, it is certainly some sort of celebration. The cuisine, my god, the gods, my lord, the art, the poetry, the architecture, wow. It all falls down but what a building process. We have machines that look like the mythic dragons of old harnessed to our will and made to dig up the earth and pile up stones and structural steel as high as the sky.

Lovely and benign we appear, diminutive among the beasts of the earth and yet we seem intent on expressing something unique, something that has never been done before. And after that, something else that has never been done before either. Let’s go and walk on the Moon for it says in the scriptures that Earth is given to man but the Heavens belong only to God. Hell let’s go to Mars. The first one to get there will be famous. Like Lindbergh, like Armstrong, like Babe Ruth, like our heroic ancestors who walked all the way from Siberia across the Bering Straits and found a new land, a new continent actually that had been separated from the rest of the world since Pangea broke up a xillion years ago.

We are the brave hearts. Or this is what we tell ourselves in our stories. The animals have no need for bravery, they live with courage everyday facing the uncertainty and danger of the food chain. We need reminders. Maybe that’s who we are, those who remind. Hey, look at this oh humans! Strip away everything except for what can’t be removed. Find the core, find the undeniable essence, feel being alive. Maybe that’s human.

who we are

Let me say a few words about cell biology.  We have trillions of these little buggers in our body, each one about 5 times smaller than the smallest point you could make on a piece of paper with a sharp pencil. They are all talking to each other and they are all sharing a common purpose, homeostasis, and at any given moment any one of those human cells are perfectly capable of performing 2-3,000 different chemical reactions within the jelly-like cytoplasm of its interior and in the organelles floating around in there and in the nucleus inside its permeable sheath. 

A cell functions much like a tiny nation or maybe it’s our nations that function like a living cell – having replicated that template in the world we live in.  It has a cell membrane with molecular gates that permit passage of certain molecules in and out but don’t allow the passage of others – analogous to borders and immigration control.  The nucleus is the capital, it houses the genetic code, the rules of the land, written on ribbons of nucleic acid and sends them out to the rest of the cell to tell them how things are to be done.  It also functions as a maternity ward where new cells are born.  In there the double helix spirals of DNA unfurl and unzip and create two separate but identical copies of itself rails of the DNA ladder.  Proteins then zip them back together and voila a new DNA molecule, spell checked and fact checked by other mechanisms to make sure it’s accurate, but not too accurate, a certain amount of digression is needed for mutations and evolutionary change.  That’s how the citizens adapt and evolve.  Then there’s the mitochondria – they are like tiny power plants that manufacture energy for the cell to use.  The energy comes in the form of a molecule called ATP which is distributed throughout the cell so it can do whatever it has to do and to cells nearby through the blood supply so they can do whatever they have to do -= somewhat like the electrical lines that criss cross our cities and give us the energy we need to run the blender and watch TV. Ribosomes float around in the cytoplasm and operate like factories translating the genetic information of the DNA into useful protein molecules.  The proteins are responsible for much of the work that’s done in a cell like replicating DNA.   Golgi bodies put the finishing touches on the proteins and lipids, customize them to suit their end purpose and package them up for delivery to their destination.  The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is like a interstate highway system that delivers them and vesicles are like the cars that drive on it transporting the manufactured products. They even deliver overseas.  Inside the ER, ribosomes match up with amino acids that they need to build the proteins, kind of like a shopping mall.  Then there’s lysosomes, an organelle that functions like the city garbage truck driving up and down the alleyways picking the detritus of our urban lifestyle; they grab worn out pieces of cell structure and dispose of them.  Some cells have antenna-like objects on their surface to pick up chemical messages from other cells like the cell phone towers that dot our landscape.

All this is going on continuously and automatically, driven by the intelligence inside the cell.  We are a collection of cells living a cellular life style within a larger cell – the planetary biosphere called planet earth which is itself part of the ‘solar system’ which itself is part of a spiraling galactic formation, which is itself one tiny cell in something we call the universe.  That puts a human being somewhere in the middle of the scale between the universe and the atomic world that makes up the molecules of our cells.  An interesting place to be.  A room with a view and what a view. 

City

. . . that glorious human invention and like many of our inventions both a blessing and a curse. The chances are that you, like me, live in a city. We are urban creatures. We are surrounded by buildings not trees. If our fairy tales had their origins in the spooky woods – the wolf, the witch, the wizard then our modern day super-heroes are born in the city – Spider Man, Bat Man, the Joker. This is our world now. Concrete skies and trees in the park. Sidewalks to walk on. From the first chapter of my book; what I’ve been working on.

“This story begins where we have ended up – in the city.  For most of our history, 99.9 % of it, we lived in small groups, usually mobile, and had little or no infrastructure.  Now most people live in the city.  Our roaming areas of old have been replaced with the ‘metropolitan area’.  ‘Metropolitan’ from the Greek mētr- ‘mother’ + polis ‘city’ – ‘mother city’.  We have come home to our mother then and she suckles us.

The first cities appeared in the Middle East some 6,000 years ago.  The invention of farming in the fertile alluvial soils of the great Tigris/Euphrates river basin afforded more and more sophistication in living arrangements.  If you didn’t have to rebuild your house every 2 months or live in a cave you could really get into some architecture.  Build something that lasts, bake bricks out of clay and stack them up, they’ll never fall down.  Hunters and gatherers were limited to small groups because they had to be mobile and live off the land but if 1 person could grow enough food for 10 people then 10 people could have other careers – merchants and priests and kings and musicians and story tellers and of course warriors to protect the storehouses full of wheat and barley.

At around the same time cities started popping up along the Indus River valley at the border of present day India and Pakistan.   Later still small farming communities developed along the Yellow River in China and grew into the urban experience – the Yang-shao culture.  After awhile the ‘New World’ started in. First people domesticated corn and then before you know it they were building fantastic stone cities – whether they were in the mountains along South America’s west coast or on the high central basin of Mexico surrounded by volcanoes.  The urban experience flowered in human history as if it was a flower whose seeds had gestated in the rich mud of human pre-history for millennia just waiting for its chance to bloom; as if it was the great coming back together after the great dispersal of the tribes out of Africa and into every distant land.

And if you share the perspective that the purpose of ‘city’ is to concentrate energy and resources in a small area to facilitate human commerce then you would be affirmed by the booming success of our cities.  You can do a lot of business in the city, way more than you can do out there in the country, or in a small town or, God forbid, the empty wastelands of the desert or the snow covered mountains where no one would want to live anyway unless you were in a monastery.   No, we built our cities in nice places and they are beautiful. Towers and decorated arches and elaborate edifices of all sorts line the streets, pubs and cafes and office buildings stand hand in hand along the way and the streets themselves are painted with symbols and lines reminding us that we are in an organized city.  A city with a reason and some central planning.  The downtown area of any healthy city, the urban core, the heart of the metropolis is thick with human commerce.  Ideas and money rain down and flow like water.  Cars and people move about in a casually frantic but semi-orchestrated manner.  The signs tell us what to do, traffic lights tell us when to move, parking signs tell us where to stop, lane markings remind us not to touch each other.  Everything runs smoothly when you obey the rules.  No questions asked.  And when all the desirable land is occupied in a city we start building vertically.  It’s sort of like living in the trees again.”

11.26.19

The pecan tree goes from green to yellow in two days, like  It just turned off. No more juice for you guys and the leaves die and fall off.  I love watching the leaves fall, it is somehow lovely and romantic, but just now I’m wondering about the leaf and did it feel romantic when the tree dropped it?  Or did it feel romantic for the earth – here I come, I’m going to merge with you.  Does it hold on with every pulse of its energy to the branch or does it let go easily and accept what is happening?

Obviously I am anthropomorphizing the poor leaf but that’s what we do, we’re the humans.  We want to know about everything in our terms.  We have convinced ourselves of our own myths – that we are the crown of creation, the king of the whole world, that God looks like us and thinks like us.  What a coincidence given all the creatures “He” created.  But maybe “He” appears to each creature in their own image so they can recognize “Him”.  God anthropomorphizing humans.  “Yes and I write books too and I get mad but it’s righteous anger.”

Two Inca doves have come down to drink, fluttering down from the trees above and settling in the bog.  Their grey and white costuming makes them appear somewhat angelic, their beautiful heads and their wings.  They dip and sip from the shallow water and take off again, don’t want to stay too long and get their soft fluffy bodies torn apart by the predator cat Kybo, who shares the same grey and white coloration and leaps out from under the bush or from behind the wall with her terrifying claws.  I am anthropomorphizing again, maybe it’s not like that at all.  I don’t suppose that the Inca Doves enjoy getting killed by the cat but maybe their sense of it is different being not the crown of creation but just one of the creatures and firmly ensconced in the food chain, neither at the top or at the bottom.  Animals seem to possess more than a modicum of acceptance.  No one is really trying to climb up the food chain.  The squirrels eat acorns that the oak tree provides from above but also from above comes the hawk and eats them.  So is ‘the above’ good or bad for the squirrel?  Not having eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, of course, they cannot answer that question, they simply accept and eat and are eaten.

We have courts and debates about what is good and acceptable and after 8,000 years of trying we still have not decided.  Maybe our species with its high powered intellect is doomed to ask questions it can’t answer.  The questions it can answer we tend to ignore like ‘why am I alive’ and ‘where did I come from’ and of course ‘where am I going next’.  We’re here because we are here and we came from nowhere and we are going to nowhere.  I can say that with confidence because in human language the word ‘where’ indicates a place or a space or a condition that can be described.  We didn’t come nor are we going to any place that can be described.  That’s not just my opinion, it has been verified by all the people who tried – thousands and millions of them, everyone really throughout the millennia.  That we are here can be verified by looking in a mirror.  Recognize that person?  They have your haircut and your shape and your name.  Curiously enough, gorillas do not recognize themselves in the mirror, chimpanzees sometimes, dolphins and elephants, I’m not sure, ravens – they’ll try to steal the mirror and bring it to their mate as a gift.  I wish someone would bring me a mirror as a gift, or maybe they have.  Maybe every person I have ever met was giving me a mirror to see myself in some new way that I had never seen before.  

So the seasons change.  Leaves carpet the ground.  Acorns crunch underfoot.  It’s a mast season with all the rain that fell earlier in the year.  The universe spins on, stars explode and galaxies collide while elsewhere tiny organic organisms on planet earth look “up”, although there really is no up in the universe, and wonder why.

the nature pool and the nature spirits

11.20.19

I sometimes hear strange sounds in the alley behind the nature pool.  Once it was a a dog howling like a siren, so much so that I went looking for it to see what sort of animal could make that sound.  Just now a whortling, ringing sound as if some spirit or other was whistling down the alleyway.  Nature sprit of course, like they used to have here in this place.  The city of San Antonio was an enchanted site back in the day, way back in the day.  It’s mostly ruined now but for 20,000 years before we messed it up, it was a sacred place for the people who came to the spring.  And before the people it was a magical place for the creatures hiding in the groovy nooks and the secret places that lined the riverbank.  And before the creatures arrived it was the nature spirits who roamed here, those old ones, our ancestors, our grandmother and grandfather.  The nature spirits are still here, somewhat.  They inhabit the river and the park and whatever remains of the groovy nooks.  How could they leave?

Maybe it’s a chichada.  But they’re long gone and hibernated. Except for this guy I guess. There it goes again chortling down the alleyway. Maybe I hear things. I mean apparantly I do but maybe I hear things that other people don’t or don’t hear in the same way. That might mean I’m crazy or it might mean there are nature spirits in the alley way. And what’s the difference anyway? That’s the point. We’re going to watch ‘Undone’ again tomorrow night. We’ve got a study group. It’s all about what is reality and stuff like that. The daughter becomes a Shaman. I think. Or maybe she’s crazy. Gotta watch it again. Amazon Prime. A Kate Purdy production. Hmm.