The planet we call “Earth” or “Home” includes three dynamic fluids that cause constant change. When they are proceeding through recurring fairly orderly cycles that interact with each other in ways long-lasting enough for the animal and plant populations to become fitted to them and dependent on them, we are happy and growing.
The three big fluids are:
Molten planet interior, on which the tectonic plates float, carrying continents
Seas, lakes and rivers moving water on and between the continents and also rising by evaporation into the air, then falling back on it
Atmosphere, moving around and around in currents, but also rising and falling
Animals that live in water are of two kinds: those who stay in one place like barnacles and those who travel through the water, responding to the temperatures, like fish.
Animals that live out of water must have a skin or boundary to carry water with them. If there is not enough, too much, or the wrong kind, the animals die.
There are other dynamics that make the planet change. Sunlight sends energy, both the force and feed of light, which travels around and around the planet because the planet turns, creating the cycle we call day-and-night. The sun’s heat drives the convection winds that create the currents of water and air, forming jet streams that circle the planet and driving the currents in the oceans among the continents. Because the continents are partly ice, controlled by altitude, they change, which changes the currents of water and air. If the ice on the planet all melts, the ocean currents will be quite different and climates will change.
Variables create and control life. And yet humans focus on keeping everything the same.
We know all this though we don’t think about it much. But now that writing has been invented, we have information over a much longer time period, and realms of knowledge we haven’t had time to digest: DNA, records drawn from geology that go back to the formation of the planet, self-observation from satellites that are able to image us from far above, molecular and atomic understanding. There’s too much to think about properly and many people have no access or interest in the conclusions anyway. Their earth is flat, their people are local, and their possessions are everything. They live in day-tight compartments.
Watching the news, I consider whether fire is a fluid. It is certainly a change agent and I suppose observation from satellites would see flames move in cycles across the continents. The smoke of fires enters the atmosphere, changes the temperatures, and if it is big enough — like the magma-driven fires of volcanoes — changing the climate.
Within all this, as my small self, I try to preserve identity. I have two strategies: boundaries and patterns. These are the essence of life itself, the processes of bodies as they germinate, differentiate, age, and die. My skull is a planet with a connectome of electrochemical flow fed by the oxygen brought by my whole-body circulation of blood and lymph. The patterns are ideas and cause acts.
I have a sphere of influence, this blog in particular. But the spheres I once thought were so important, where I thought I had impact, have dissolved. No one remembers the animal control skirmishes, the UU fellowship efforts, or even my part in the Scriver bronzes. Teaching was only a wandering. These were institutional contexts. Institutions are human organized efforts to keep everything the same. Now I see that nothing can stay the same and it wouldn’t be a good thing if it did.
I’m amused that this new NY Times investigation into Trump’s “empire” have revealed that most of his “holdings” are actually just legal agreements to use his name, deals with other institutions as a short cut for their branding. It turns out he actually “owns” much less, the same as his nonprofit foundation simply took credit for other people’s contributions and his university taught nothing because there was little or nothing to teach about how Trump got rich. His achievements are no much more than that little child’s book about a kitten who boasts “I Could Pee on This.” No wonder he didn’t want anyone to look at his business books. No wonder he’s suddenly willing to divest — it will be much less of a problem if there’s little actual ownership — just legal agreements. It’s all paper, bookkeeping.
Money doesn’t exist. Value changes. It is a swirl of exchanges recorded by beads, discs of precious metals, printed IOU’s, and now simply computer records in a machine somewhere. The most potentially valuable commodities, the ones that never lose their value, are water and oxygen, but we do not protect them. When they are lost, we will die. They are international, global. But we pursue money instead and expect nations to protect bookkeeping profit, not the ultimate infrastructure of air and water.
When I try to understand what I should do with the fragment of my life that is left (I’m 77) and try to grasp what I’ve achieved up to this point, I end up only confused. How much of the lives of individuals is bound up in the far larger swirls of civilization and how much are those huge forces the product of geological and biological changes that we might not even notice. What could anyone say that would matter?
The Manhattanite political opinionators were shocked SHOCKED that the middle of the USA voted for Trump, because they were still envisioning them as Mayberry rural places where people live on family farms and ranches or in small towns where the values were traditional and conservative. Surely none of those people would vote for a clown with a naked wife whose wealth came from fancy hotels (with all those lovely private rooms for assignations) and pretentious golf courses which all the men love because that’s where all the real deals are made.
They didn’t see that the families had been bought out by companies who run big industrial ag operations — feedlots and mega-elevators that shift meat and grain around the planet in major deals. These people are wealth-affiliated because on this scale ag is really capital-based, esp. when one factors in the commodities stock market. These are the people who constantly check the computer version of ticker tape. The ones who are American (I’d like to see a percentage) are far more likely to be Republican.
Yesterday I had coffee with a man who had been offered a job on a big ranch. $400 plus a little old house forty miles from town. He had no trouble turning it down because he has a LOT of money: a few years ago when he had an industrial job of some kind and took a violent head injury, insurance and a lawsuit brought him a big payout. The only trouble is that beyond buying a new pickup at the top of the line and a humonguous flat-screen on which to watch trash and propaganda, he can’t think what to do with himself. He probably won’t live very long anyway.
The insight, guidance and just plain morality of religious systems fall short these days. The pill turned out to be as explosive as gunpowder. Science tells us all sorts of things, but we pay no attention. China was crushed by its own overpopulation, so forced people to observe a law mandating one-child-per-family. If a woman got pregnant a second time, she was forced to abort. Since couples could only have one child and boys were more likely to make money to help with their parents’ old age, they voluntarily aborted girls if they could determine that before birth or secretly killed them at birth.
Now China’s major problem is men coming of age with no wives to stabilize them and create new families. They lean against the walls, yearning for meaning, ready to catch fire in a war, probably more dangerous than nuclear technology. One solution would be the importation of wives from another country, but wives carry their culture to the children, so they would not really be Chinese and the country would not be an institution that preserved its past.
America’s workforce is not just being displaced by industrialization and major international corporations who “off-shore” industry. Their work culture has shifted out of their hands. Now the pride, the allegiance to institutions (labor unions, church, towns) has betrayed them and they are the ones leaning against the saloon counter.
History offers us more examples of power crash than the Roman Empire, which is the one we like best. The harrowing of plague, of disaster (in 1450 a series of erupting volcanoes dropped average temps below what would grow crops), of invasion (Genghis Kahn and Tamerlane) cause death and destruction. But then afterwards, when balance is regained, things are often much better for a while. From a kind of exaggerated point of view, if you think of the Islamic countries as a harrowing recurrence of the Mongols, one should simply survive until the wave passes. Prepare for a New Order that includes them. The old white wealthy males are going to die soon anyway. Even dictators die.