Sunday, March 31, 2019

Combinational Explosion as Q-Anon

In Evolutionary Biology there are three theories about how inheritable characteristics in creatures change over time. Darwin vacillated a little as he hunted for evidence and toward the end of his time, he came to the conclusion that from the sole source of evidence which was the fossil record a creature remained pretty much the same and suddenly a successful adaption occured, was passed on and lo, a new creature emerged and because it was much better suited to meet the challenges of the environment it thrived. A second theory, again based on evidence from the fossil record, suggested that it was an error to assume that genetic changes weren't happening all the time and nothing actually happened suddenly, it was more of a slow process. A third theory suggested that some creatures were just better at adapting than other creatures, the argument being that some collections of genes are doomed to stability, while other collections of genes are less doomed to stability. So as an example, possibly the genes that arrange teeth in Cats are less stable which resulted in the Sabretooth Cat, had these genes been more stable there might never have been a Sabretooth Cat, some studies have suggested that the knife tooth wasn't that well anchored. With birds, there's evidence to suggest that they are the surviving members of a family of smaller Dinosaur which had developed feather-like structures that originally probably played a role in courtship, and over time the capacity to produce feathers proved more and more useful not only for activities such as flight but also for keeping warm. So the whole evolution tapestry is a wonderful complexity and easy enough to explore with confidence until you get to that part of the creature that's less visible in the fossil record. Cats purr, so do Hyena and there's a whole bunch of ideas about why cat's purr and fairly stout notions about how they purr, but there's no fossil record of the mechanisms that result in a cat deciding to purr other than the assumption that it's an instinctive reaction to be being patted, or whatever. The fact is sometimes cat's don't purr when they're being patted, is it because they don't want to be patted or are you just the wrong person to do the patting, and it could go on for ever. The point is there are parts of us creatures which do not become fossils, and the question is the extent to which those parts of us that do not become fossils can be explored in evolutionary terms without resorting to wild eyed, unsubstantiated half baked guessing.

The essence of scientific exploration is discerning the truth of an assertion by testing it, and if you can't really test an assertion you're not really exploring it scientifically. Darwin had a sense that emotions and so on had origins in evolution, but the testing part was not something he was able to usefully address. Into this vacuum stepped the discipline of Evolutionary Psychology. The heart, the lungs and so on are morphology, what happens in a mind is psychology. The mind, it's been suggested, has structures or modules, kind of like hearts and lungs, but there's a module for empathy, being able to recognize faces and so on, and these modules can be thought of as structures which over the years have been subjected to the patterns of evolution, they have changed, changes are passed along to a next generation, because they were useful. The argument goes on to suggest that a person is born with these modules in the same way that a person is born with heart, and as a person grows a module develops, sometimes quirky, sometimes less quirky, and in the word 'develop' there's a capacity to exercise, become more 'muscular', become more or become less important within the context of an environment. The question is do all these modules work together in a single harmonious domain. And here the suggestion is that if you're talking about the mind as a computational processing device then they can't possibly work together because there are so many modules that the numbers of possible combinations between the modules would result in a sort of melt down or a Combinational Explosion, in math it means a problem that might never be solved. The point being that something that's as simple to us as typing a sentence is the result of a vast amount of mental activity that you and I are quite unaware of, and if you add input from every module that a person possesses odds are a sentence never would be written, a staircase never climbed. So rather than a committee, what you have is a bunch of sub-committees one of which does the writing and doesn't require a contribution from the entire committee. You don't go far in the world of Evolutionary Psychology without someone bringing up the words 'Mismatch' and 'The Pleistocene.' The Pleistocene was a couple of million years of repeating glaciations out of which our earliest ancestors evolved to become what we people are, including what our mind is. Not hard to suggest that the environment for us people has changed a bit since then, and I guess the question is which of the three theories of how evolution manages adaption will we cleave to. Maybe it's just me, but it does seem some of us are struggling a little at the moment with what mathematicians and evolutionary psychiatrists call a Combinational Explosion, and they do so because they're all far too polite and evidence based to just go ahead and call it Q-Anon.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Question

What with one thing and another, it's possibly unlikely and probably absurd to think that a debate question for any gathering of presidential candidates might include an attempt to elicit a better understanding of the candidates by framing a question around the relationship between Penelope and Odysseus in an effort to gain insight into a candidate's position on Odysseus as an heroic figure, defined as a person to be admired, idealized for their courage, achievements and noble qualities in this season of 2019/2020. And you don't have to tell me that for a can-do snowflake in good standing this is hugely disappointing which means your gardener is just going to have to shower, shave, brush his hair, decide on an outfit, offer the Girl Cat the role of chairperson of an exploratory committee and announce his intention to run for President of these here United States. I'd have baggage of course, quite a lot of it, so the Kitten will be charged with bud nipping, press releases and those more underhanded ancillary campaigning activities that usually result in an exalted and highly paid career as a Washington Lobbyist.

And fair warning, I'll not be voting for myself because I have promised to never vote for a anyone over the age of 55, and should I be chosen to serve I will insist on swearing my oath of allegiance on the Andrew George translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh, two points I shall reiterate throughout the campaign. And always worth remembering exactly why it is we true blue pompous ass snowflakes unnerve to the point of creeping out a majority of any given population. In the end "Interpret The Odyssey, and defend your interpretation," has a simple answer. "My interpretation: a poem that emerged from the turmoil of the Trojan War and its aftermath. Defense of this interpretation: do the issues and ways of thinking explored in the poem remain useful as we attempt to choose our future? Some might, some might not." When the applause finally dies down, I'd go on to minutely compare and contrast the balance between Lotus Eating, the perils of slaughtering someone's sacred goat, or cow and the potential for, along with the imperatives of, progress in open societies as opposed to reverting to a luridly tyrannical society such as Sparta where 90% of the population was held in servitude by a blinkered aristocratic elite. I can picture it now, giant headlines, interviews on the 24 hour news and plummeting poll numbers.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Penelope's Reaction to the Homecoming

Current scholarship suggests that the Trojan War was indeed an historical event that occurred around 3,400 years ago. Back then the primary medium for transmitting information was word of mouth, and I guess even back then the wiser heads well understood the potential for inaccuracy, wild unsubstantiated rumor, malicious gossip and down right lies. But story telling was another game, it gripped the mind, roused the emotions, presented dilemma and 'what happened next?' But in the absence of reading and writing, you had to be there, in the evening time, after work, to listen to the story teller embark upon his quest to keep your mind engaged. I guess too, like today, back then some story tellers were more agile of mind than other story tellers, this meant I'd argue that knowing the bones of a story while valuable was almost ancillary to knowing the rhythms in the telling of the story that absorbed the listener, kept his or her attention and eager for more. Then I'd argue within the intimacy of the relationship between the story teller and the listeners, it's entirely possible that a person could find themselves having a poor reaction to the story teller, not so much because of what he was saying but because of his general attitude, demeanor, his manner and that host of invisibles difficult to identify and yet defining in 'I don't know, he just gets on my nerves.' To which a reply might be, 'Not that fond of the cowboy hat either, but do you think Penelope was actually happy to see Odysseus again.' 'The story teller's short on crayons,' I might have answered. 'No way was Penelope happy to see him again.'

Because she was left to take care of Odysseus' territory while he was gone, odds are Penelope was a Spartan. Unlike in other Greek States, Spartan women of a certain status were educated, they were permitted to own property, they could inherit property from their father, they all had lovely cheeks, and in other Greek states they were regarded as tough, opinionated and all this made them a little alarming for non-Spartan Greek boys to be around because in other Greek States women had hardly any rights and leaving them in charge of anything was a slippery slope for boy-kind. Spartan high society was also very big on obligation, stiff upper lip, laughing at the impossible and a sense of duty. So this is what we now know about Penelope's meeting with Odysseus when he came back from his travels :  "her face melted.... her lovely cheeks dissolved with tears. She wept for her own husband, who was right next to her." The 'face melted' part could mean anything from an OMG to an WTF. Psychiatrists will tell you that the causes of weeping range from sadness, through pain and fear to relief. It's the 'she wept for her husband, who was right next to her' part suggests to me an undutiful turmoil and it also suggests that her weeping was for a husband she remembered rather than the man who was by her side. You can picture Odysseus mumping in a critical manner about this and that. And if there's a point, it's this. Heidegger spend years on the very early Greek Poets and their understanding of what thinking might be. He put it this way, back in those days thought was understood to comprise the laying out of and touching the heart rather than some idea of A+B therefore C speaks the 'truth.'  From the 2017 translation of The Odyssey, the laying out of Penelope as being relieved, jumping up and down in a Cinderella glass slipper kind of way, delighted and joyous to see her husband again no longer touches even a tiny bit of my heart, which I'd agree is older, and since 2016 considerably more suspicious of story tellers

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Presidential Debate Questions

Odysseus was the boy hero in The Odyssey. He was a king who left his wife in charge of his home territory while he went off to do his bit to rescue Helen from the Trojans. When the war was over it took Odysseus a good ten years to make his way home, and when he got home his wife was delighted to see him again, "her face melted.... her lovely cheeks dissolved with tears. She wept for her own husband, who was right next to her." But Odysseus wasn't that happy to discover that even though things seemed to be ticking along nicely, the harvests were good, streets tidy and so on, home had changed. His reaction to this discovery was classic boy king veteran of foreign wars type behavior. His solution to his own emotions was to put things right by returning everything to the way he'd remembered it. He killed all his wife's suitors and their supporters and as a result he felt back in charge of everything. "Gosh" I hear the call. Well, the man had been away for a good long while, and you'd think that maybe there were good reasons why things might have changed at home and the point of discussion has to do with what Odysseus might have learned during his travels amongst other societies all of whom managed things very differently, some put more faith in a girl god, others based their entire existence around sheep, there were Lotus eaters, cannibals, he and his men ate someone's sacred livestock even though they were asked not to, and the list is long. But for Odysseus, home had to be as it had been, as it was and would always be. So the question; "Was Odysseus a hero or just an unpleasant self centered little man with a big sword and a fragile ego?" might strike a cord. Worth noting that for reasons that defeat me, the Romans called Odysseus, Ulysses.

It was the Dubliner James Joyce who wrote the book Ulysses. It's an exploration of the many trials of Odysseus on his journey home. Joyce, however, explored Odysseus' entire adventure by describing the events and thoughts of one day in the life of his main character Leopold Bloom. The day was June 16th, 1904. Today there are two pretenders to the Office of President here in the United States who have made mention of their fondness for The Odyssey and Joyce. One named his boy child Ulysses, I guess he did so because Odysseus might have been taking it just a little too far for a Texan. The other suggested that politics should be conducted more like Joyce's telling of Leopold Bloom's day in 1904. The grand theory is one thing, the great historical reach is another thing, but this side of tyranny doing politics is about how everyday life can be made better or worse and in doing politics there are few substitutes for "the imperatives and primacy of lived experience." Far too easy to stand on a pedestal and claim to be speaking for the American People, you can't just be the hero and assume you know what's best for everyone because it's best for you and how you think things should be. It's a delicious area, cuts all ways, every spice you can you think of and yet. Emily Wilson is a scholar, she recently contributed a new translation of The Odyssey, her commentary, I'm told, feasts more on the reality of life for the majority in Odysseus' time on earth, the raw uncertainties, the moments of charm and wonder, fear and violence, not just as fate on a tombstone but real and present. Her question for all Pretenders could be "Interpret The Odyssey, and defend your interpretation."

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

High Wire and Lion Tamer

The emotive nature of current discourse finds no respite in the Romantic Poets of Victorian times. They're all about the Bothnic Main or Esthwaite and suddenly you're in a world of names and places which can in times of stress ill serve a less balanced mind in his search for some kind of solace. The Bothnic Main is the increasingly shallow sea between Finland and Sweden. Esthwaite is a small lake in the hills of North West England. Then you get something like ".. the frost, ragged bitterly, with keen and silent tooth," and briefly your mind can spiral into a comfort zone.  But not for long. Soon enough you're back to the sheer of an unappetizing gale filled with the metaphorical equivalent of Tea and Crumpets. Not saying there's anything wrong with Tea and Crumpets, just saying Tea and Crumpets are a sad interlude of goody two shoes Poodles Jumping Through Hoops at the circus between the High Wire and the Lion Tamer.

Not just me of course, the Turkey Buzzards this morning were having a difficult time finding spirals, they don't like to flap their wings, a waste of energy, they've been seen by airplane pilots at 20,000 feet, that's over 4 miles high, but not this morning.  Fooled by the blue sky and bright sun, they were giving it an A for effort, but much wiser to wait a while for the ground to warm a little, doesn't have to be much to cause convection and bold and wonderful to watch up they'll go, stare endlessly down at us looking for dead creatures to eat. The Victorian Romantic Poets had this interesting habit of putting Joy into categories, the low end in their estimation was Vulgar Joy, never fully satisfying, it was temptation. The Bothnic Main was fierce, terrifying and way foreign, but exciting in a Vulgar Joy kind of way. Bloody Esthwaite was bubble peaceable, calm, everyone doffed their caps knew their place and Esthwaite, so long as you did not err, was for the higher Tea and Crumpet type joys. Don't be fooled by them, they usually end up with compulsory charades.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Tricky Business

"Difficult Issues...." As an understatement, it does strike the kind of chord the organ of a cathedral might produce for a scene in a Frankenstein movie. I would have gone for "Tricky Business," but the only legalese that's fun to read is a Casebook of Torts. One case called Donoghue and Stevenson, 1932, the British House of Lords established a Duty to Care. Mr. Stevenson was a manufacturer of Ginger Beer. Mrs. Donoghue was having a day out and she chose to purchase a bottle of Mr. Stevenson's Ginger Beer in a Cafe, and half way through drinking that bottle of Ginger Beer Mrs. Donoghue discovered the bottle contained a Snail. The Snail, Mrs. Donoghue claimed, made her very ill.

Torts are about Mens Rea, Guilty Mind, a case law of how intention or knowledge of wrong doing has been demonstrated by lawyers in the courts. The Duty to Care was an onus on the defendant. He had an obligation to actually care whether there were snails in his bottle of Ginger Beer. As the case wound through the mysteries of a court system where principal actors in the drama of the court room wear wigs, the case finally found its way back to the local level where it was determined to try the case on the Facts. The local court was unable to decide with certainty that there was actually a snail in the bottle of Ginger Beer. Either way, after Mr. Stevenson died the case was settled out of court. His estate parted with 200 pounds sterling instead of the claim for 500 pounds.

Monday, March 25, 2019

A Peter Pan Rain

A perfect March morning. Very little wind, not cold, alive with birdsong, compost turned, on track with the chores, no debilitating seasonal injuries and a fine dribbling sky. What more could a gardener possibly ask for. Unfortunately its an illegible list, handwritten in blunt pencil on a scrap of what might have been newsprint lodged in a coat pocket that got damp. And it's a strange thing for person to leave his coat on a fence in a perverse attempt to persuade the ethers to cause rain, but at least there was no dancing around, chanting or any other kind of the sacrificing our species has been prone to in moments of rain stress. 

Trying not to complain, it was a little over a tenth of an inch of rain, the coat is shall we say elderly, it's been called "little better than a old ragged tea towel that needs to be burned" so it's entirely possible the ethers reacted accordingly, and very typical of them to totally ignored the intensity of the relationship a gardener shares with his gardening coat. It has a brass type zipper that occasionally works as good as new, not like plastic zippers that have a lifetime warranty of around six days. Next respectable chance of rain in the forecast is this coming Saturday, and in the end it's the old reliables for a genuine Potato Rain, such as leaving open the window of a pickup truck that work best. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Black Swans and Inverted Curves

On this Sunday in March 2019 pundits on both Left and Right who earn their pay by fermenting outrage in the USA are holding their breath as they scrabble around hunting down the twists and turns of interpretations. Historians might also be marking their diaries, making a note of where they were and what they might have had for breakfast. But some of us, through the course of the past couple of years, might have maintained a more stoic resistance to the idea of a savior of any kind, a White Horse remains a banker's Black Swan, a much easier thing to say before a species of Black Swan was actually discovered in Western Australia, they're an interesting monogamous breed and as it happens one quarter of those monogamous relationships are homosexual relationships.

Then in the background there's a whisper, in the tealeaves an inverted curve, which is when the yields on short term debt are higher than the yields on long term debt. It's a whisper that raises an eyebrow maybe three and after a couple of months of inversion in this curve you're talking thousands of raised eyebrows, along with muttering as the older minds recall the past history of the inverted curve, where they were what they had for breakfast, and it's a rich often flawed tapestry out of which patterns emerge. In buying and selling of the future, over confidence can become a reckless ebullience. In buying and selling the inverted curve last happened in 2018, didn't last long and then it was gone. In Politics, fortunately, inverted curves are equally sobering.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Hobbes, Plato and The Report

Thomas Hobbes, who died in 1697, has been called one of the founders of what's been called Modern Political Philosophy. His central assertion, reflected an understanding of the essential condition of man as being characterized by a war of everyone against everyone. And yet, he suggested, that throughout history societies have emerged which are not characterized by a war of everyone against everyone. His question was why and how does a society manage the essential condition of man so as to produce a world where life for people is better than nasty, brutish and short. Today his thinking is reflected in various understandings of a Social Contract which defines the rights, duties and obligations within the relationships between rulers and the ruled. Hobbes himself had an understanding of power that I'd argue he shared with Plato. The ideal ruler for Plato was a Good Tyrant, but the trouble for both Plato and Hobbes was that Good Tyrants were few and far between. The odds are with a Tyrant, every thing started out all hope and bliss for the enthusiasts but with Tyrants mans essential nature reared its ugly head and soon enough life for most people was back to being nasty, brutish and short.  Plato suggested that a nations leaders should basically be highly trained bureaucrats, preferably chosen at tender age from the general population, carefully educated in the arts of governance.  There were Men of Gold in the flux of Humanity, he argued and they could be discovered, promoted and fostered.

Hobbes also was a little suspicious of democracy, he reckoned that more often than not an electorate would elect, let's call them really very unfit leaders from a bunch of very suspect pretenders, and again soon enough life for the rest of us would return to being nasty brutish and short.  Hobbes, reckoned that with all its faults a monarchy made most sense as the vehicle through which a society might maintain the kind of Social Contract that allowed for improvement in the lot of us people. And it's also true that Hobbes was alive in the period of the English Civil War, which was a war between an emerging Middle Class and Royalists. The Royalists were gallant and brave and had an old fashioned disdain for merchants. The middle class side produced Oliver Cromwell as their leader, who was a bit of a religious nut who really disliked Catholics to the point of trying to wipe them out in Ireland. Cromwell was also a man who's been called a Hero of Freedom by Thomas Carlyle, a Military Dictator by Winston Churchill and a Revolutionary Bourgeois by Trotsky and whatever you think about Trotsky he was so vehemently opposed to Stalin assuming the role of Tyrant he ended up being assassinated in Mexico by an agent of the Soviet security services. One of the signatures of a Social Contract in Liberal Democracies are functioning Institutions. And it's not just lip service to the formulation that inspired the bricks and mortar of an institution, something like "Equal Justice," "One Man One Vote," and so on. On our side of the divide between the ruled and our rulers when it begins to become pretty obvious that Institutions, for example Equal Justice Before the Law, or One Man One Vote, not to mention the others, are so much fluff then a Social Contract begins to fail, slowly at first as the constant disappointment of expectations unmet, then more suddenly.

Friday, March 22, 2019

A Little Rain Would be Nice

    The Greeks had several Gods of weather, each one blew from different points of the compass. They were minor, less important Gods, never totally in control or fully responsible and all were subject to a God called Aeolus, who apparently might have sometimes lived on a floating island and pretty much let his underlings amuse themselves. The cold north wind was Boreas and very useful at causing havoc amongst Persian invasion fleets. The Romans had an Aquillo who was more of a slightly East North Wind. Then there was Notus who came from the South, was usually dry, caused terrible storms and was generally considered a destroyer of crops. The Greeks had Eurus who was a South East Wind. And the Greeks had Zephyrus, or Zephyr, who was the Spring wind for the Greeks, he was the West wind, and he was supposed to have abducted the Goddess of Flowers, he had a fling with the Goddess of Rainbows and according to rumor he had a bit of thing for Harpies. All of which means for the Ancient Greeks the weather, especially in Spring was as frustrating as it is in modern times. And there was a bit of a brisk Boreal wind in the garden this morning, it was ear freezing wind, and other than sunshine, no sign of Zephyr, who must have been off somewhere making moon eyes at someone, or might have been sulking in his cave which was located somewhere in the land of the Thracians, so many of whom followed Alexander in his quest to conquer the four corners of the earth.

And sometimes it does seem that frustration with the weather leads people to give serious consideration to world domination. My own theory of the essential motive causes of the British Empire is based entirely on an understanding that English winter weather was something to escape from no matter the cost. So it's kind of no wonder the effects of climate change on the Island Nation's weather patterns seems to have produced a self destructive insularity in the British Body Politic. I guess too, the same could be said for the United States. But I am prepared to argue that fear of competition is as much a signifier of decay into tyranny as anything else in the natural world. For the Greeks the King of the Gods was Zeus, he was the big wig, law and order, pretty much anything you could think of including the sky, the clouds and rain. So you could complain about Zephyr's lackadaisical life style all you like, but if you find yourself impatient for a little rain in Springtime Zeus's wife Hera, who might also be Zeus's sister, is the Goddess to file a serious, well crafted complaint with. A little advice on the approach, whatever you do don't whine, none of this poor pitiful, be creative and remember two things. Hera's a vengeful sort of immortal with a keen interest in gossip and she's jealous of her husband's hundreds of extra marital affairs and thousands of illegitimate children. The other thing to remember, Zeus is a bit of a self obsessed nutcase, who thinks himself fantastic and he's not that fond of us people.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Goose Egg

Have a vague memory of an expression that had something to do with not teaching your Grandmother to suck eggs. Never really grasped it, never seen a grandmother suck an egg, had no idea why a Grandmother would want to or have to suck an egg, something to do with false teeth maybe otherwise how would she fit an egg in her mouth, at the same time those prone to using the expression always did so in a somewhat supercilious manner, it was aggravating in a nanny nanny boo boo you horrible foreign little boy kind of way, and the assumption in the expression seemed to call a halt to all further dialogue. In the immense amount of research on the Grandmother and egg sucking phenomena, is a suggestion that the expression morphed over time and it did so as a result of a changing status of Grandmothers in a politer society.  One argument suggests that in the 1600's Grandmothers had a way of telling when a Goose was about to lay an egg, and the thing about Geese they're not like Chickens, they can be kind of defensive around their eggs, and can gang up on an egg gatherer, and if you've ever been chased by a Goose you'll know all about high end feral behavior from someone's so called domesticated bird. So in terms of a Goose egg for supper knowing when the Goose was about to lay an egg was fairly critical to overall harmony.

In the literature there's a strong suggestion that back in those days Grandmothers were reluctant to share their knowledge about when a Goose was about to lay an egg. No record of whether a person was ceremoniously inducted into the Goose Egg Gathering Sisterhood, or whether each Grandmother came to the knowledge as a result of bitter experience.  And you can sort of see it now, men folk, pretty young things and hordes of urchins grumbling around the kitchen table about how others in the village always had Goose eggs to feast upon and there was none of this constant open warfare in the backyard between Goose and Humankind. The Grandmother secret for those initiated had to do with getting near enough to the Goose so as to be able to feel whether the Goose was close to or at least thinking about laying an egg. So I guess part of the secret had to do with developing a sufficiently intimate relationship with the Goose to make this possible. And I'd argue with some vehemence that a much earlier phrasing of the expression which was "Don't teach your Grandmother to grope the Goose" puts a whole new perspective on the infuriatingly pompous Grandmothers sucking eggs version of the expression that did the rounds when I was callow, and maybe several crayons short of a full stack.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A Narcissistic Gut

Sad day when any elected official uses the expression "Total Loser." Mind you, when it comes to the various blood oaths and chiseling commandments into stone your gardener endured during the winter months that whole Potato planting plan has gone totally to pot. "Not until April!" and "Only Red Pontiac" and "Don't plant until a warm Potato Rain is forecast." I guess the old man was up the mountain and there was a little Red Norland worshipping going on down here, and you should hear the total loser excuses that are currently emanating, while already plotting the excuses for Sooty Foot, Mop Head and that host of righteous neediness that travel the pathways in the toe nails of Moles, on the feet of Seagulls, in the proboscises of plant sucking insects, that fall from the vapor trails of private jets and arrive as the dust of shooting stars.

In the end it was temptation and blind obedience to routine in combination with that least of all reliable of organs, a narcissistic gut. I remember reading about a Soviet Scientist called Trofim Lyensko. He was a favorite of Stalin and he fell to the belief that geneticists were totally on the wrong track, and as head of agriculture Trofim had them all fired. His own theory was all about temperature at germination, no difference between Winter Wheat and Spring Wheat, and much more useful he reckoned on planting seeds much closer together to boost yield. Apparatus following temptation and blind obedience to routine swung into action. The result was famine! Not to be outdone one of Mao's advisers declared Sparrows a public enemy because of the number of seeds they ate, obvious really. Again, the Sparrow population was decimated, same result only this time famine was caused by locust. Who knew Sparrows eat more insects than they do seeds.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Bank in Question

In the 1860's 1870's the German Empire was well industrialized, but Finance was dominated by Britain and France. The German Industrialists wishing to export were at a disadvantage, they had to go abroad for finance where German currency was held in very low esteem. In 1870 the German Empire granted Deutsche Bank a banking license. The new bank was built around the understanding that for better access to international trade German Industry needed a more reliable home grown source of finance. Things came to a bit of a head for the bank following the Fist World War, the Great Depression was a struggle for everyone, The Weimer Republic fell to a dictatorship, and being a bank Deutsche Bank dismissed its three Jewish board members and got on board with new Nazi regime.

During the second world war, Deutsche Bank was engaged in basically taking over the banks of conquered territories and there was at that time a wealth of enterprise, factories and properties that were confiscated by the German State, the financing of many of them became the responsibility of Deutsche Bank. One of the other things Deutsche Bank achieved during the war was to finance the development of former Polish Military Barracks called Auschwitz, and also many of the German businesses that used slave labor. So what with one thing and another, following the Second World War the occupying powers divided Deutsche bank into ten separate banks. Inevitably what remained of Deutsche Bank developed a culture very much of its own, and a part of that culture is more prone than most banks to fish for profit in those areas other banks wouldn't touch with a cleft stick.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Nose Drip Mile Stone

There was a time when I could wonder why an old man's nose dripped in the cold. It wasn't like a green amber snot you'd expect from the nose of an old man, more a crystal clear liquid with a water tension I guessed that was considerably higher than that of potable water. The drip was usually very obvious to a keen eyed observer but as a rule an old man seemed quite oblivious to it. The drip would linger a while, either fall or tenaciously get wheezed up and down for a bit before falling, sometimes it would end up on a sleeve, and there was whole series of other possibilities especially if there was some kind of incomprehensible old man joke exchanged. It was a vaguely unhygienic and unattractive characteristic I used to think, and especially so if the occasion was such the polite thing to do was shake hands. Not one of the great questions, but offered insight into the assertion that Inuit Peoples rubbed noses as a greeting, the assumption being that it was usually too cold to safely take off the fur lined mittens, and life style in the more northern regions was far too cruel to permit old men a useful existence so older men tended to do the right thing, sensibly wandered into the night long before they reached the nose dripping phase of their time on earth, the result being that the nose rubbing greeting persisted for happy generations until maybe the Flu arrived.

 Not certain how happy I am to report that I have achieved the Nose Drip phase of life. Definitely a phase that creeps up on a geriatric, in my case it might have been happening for months, there was an odd incident in the Grocery Store recently and possibly I was struggling with a degree of denial, but no escaping from it this morning. I was weeding one of the garden beds, Carrots and Tomato possibly, cheerfully ignoring what was a bitter easterly breeze, nor was I taking any notice of a unison of whining from the various members of the community that is me, and there it was. I saw it quite distinctly, I was wearing the weeding glasses so there was no mistaking it. A drip landed on the fury leaf of a Purple Clover, it glistened in the bright cold sun, and just sort of sat there in that look at me way. The thing is I wasn't even aware of a sniffle in my nose, there was no urge to find a handkerchief or a coat sleeve, so I cast about looking for a culprit. A couple of Bluebirds playing chess on the electric line, for sport they might have flipped a dew drop in my direction, but I wasn't that close to the electric line. Soon enough the possible culprits became patently absurd, one of those jet streams in the distant sky, no way a worm would squirt a drop of liquid in my direction and when the drip happened a third time I found myself yet again having to do battle with acceptance. Pretty soon it'll be question of which foldable Rollating Rolling Walker for $55 would suit me best, a red one or a blue one. The Nitro Euro Style looks glamorous, good looking wheels, a little basket for an air horn, but a little pricy.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Potato, Mop Top and Soil

Happy Saint Patrick's Day, pity one of his miracles was to cause the snakes in Ireland to become extinct. But fair warning, it could be a Mop Top year for Potato. Other than its wonderful name not completely certain what the Mop Top virus does to Potato, but one of the signs of it's presence is when you cut open the tuber there's a gooey, brownish, nastiness inside the tuber. The vector for Mop Top is a subterranean Slime Mold. Slime Mold prefer moist conditions, so there's a whole thing about how wet the soil might be and how warm it might be when Potato tubers start to form. Nor is Mop Top the only virus vectored by Slime Molds, and frankly if you get too involved with the abundance of virus pests that damage Potato you might as well just hang up your shovel. Invariably the best solution is crop rotation and well sourced Seed Potato. Trouble is with something like Mop Top, one part or other of its life cycle can stay dormant in your soil for twenty odd years, so we're talking a long time between Potato crops, a bit of an anathema for Industrial Farming, one they react to by constantly tinkering with Potato Hybrids, good plant sanitation practices, inorganic fertilizers and when panic at the possibility of losing a crop sets in there's a reliance upon chemicals. Who knows, maybe it's endlessly sustainable, maybe it's not.

I think it was 2015 that NASA released an analysis of the amount of ground given over to lawns in the USA. The area of lawn according to their calculation was roughly the size of Texas. The NASA study was about the impact of lawns on the environment and water resources. It suggested that lawns can act as a carbon sink, but mowing the lawns with mowing machines reduced the amount of carbon a maintained lawn sequestered by 35%. And the study went on to have a look at the amount of water in the drier regions of the USA that was sprinkled onto  lawns by obsessed home owners and pointed out that over all lawn maintenance put a heavy burden on water resources which in some parts of the USA reached between 50-70% of total water use. Yes indeed, my generation is the Sabretooth Cat of our living generations, we are knife tooth, the name Smilodon suits us perfectly as we shrug it all off so long as the mowing machine works nothing changes for us, and it's down to younger generations to develop the fresh eyed Of Woodland characteristics that enabled Silvestris kittens to see potential in the change of circumstance. It's been estimated that between 1975 and 2015 the world lost one third of arable land to a variety of degradations. Ill treated soil loses it's living creatures, it dies and when it's reduced to it's bare mineral components it becomes dust and ashes, too easily washed away or blown into sterile drifts.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Language Making and Thinking

No longer certain it's correct to say that we people think with language. Probably better to suggest that thought processes become language and it's with language we are able to firm up the thought process and by so doing produce something concrete-ish, that can be stored and used to frame discourse in much the same way as a shovel can be used, or a chisel to shape earth or wood. I guess it's an argument that suggests language making, as a manifestation of thinking, is a tool.

I can also guess that some thought processes never quite manage to use the tool of language to precisely describe the thought process. So with respect to language as a tool, the question is to what extent does the tool of language reflect hand tools as opposed to something like one of those washing machines that you just pop the clothes in press a button and an hour later whoop you got ready to wear clean clothes. Here, I'd suggest, it depends upon whether I've been thinking.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Knife Tooth and Of the Woodlands

Whatever your thoughts and opinions are around the description Neo-Conservative best to consider "the full radiance of their appearance."  Same goes for Socialism or Conservatism or Capitalism or pretty much any other collection of ideas you might want to think of. Nor is this an easy step to take, it's solutions that tempt us into assumptions. It's also true your correspondent has developed a possibly irrational fondness for an idea of radiance, it seems so much healthier than the almost tyrannical dictate in the word "enlighten."  I guess a battle cry would go something like: "Give me radiance over enlightenment any day or night." "Go ahead!" I hear the retort, "Bathe in the radiance of the Sabretooth Tiger all you want, his teeth will surely baptize you."

The distinction is very well taken, at the same time, the radiance of the Sabretooth Cat included a wonderful zoological name of Smilodon, it was about the size of an African Lion and sure a North American Sabretooth Cat presented a great danger to those of us who might have been alive prior to the Quaternary Extinction of the mega fauna which included the Wooly Mammoth. Very possible too that a kitten of Sabretooth Cat might have wormed a way into the heart of a hunter gatherer and might indeed have caused some anxiety and emotional turmoil in the clan as the radiance of the kitten's smile sprouted bigger and bigger teeth as it rapidly gained size and started bossing everyone around. A great many theories about the exact causes of the Quaternary Extinction, and it's possible that given the cute factor displayed by all cat kittens, if Felix Smilodon instead of getting stuck in some rut had the Felix Silvestris capacity to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances there could be a Smilodon sleeping on my bed at the moment, dreaming of giant cans of Mariner's Catch or what fun it had been dragging a partially dismembered adult Deer in through the cat flap. Silvestris means Of the Woodland. Smilodon means Knife Tooth

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Local Gossip

Ground feels warm, it's drying rapidly, the yellow bloom of Forsythia has emerged, pond Frogs are leaping, Bloodroot is blooming and generally the smog of what could be tree pollen is upon us here where I live. But there's no pogo-stick, no rushing around desperately searching for his wintering compost pile thermometer, his kneeling pillow and that array of accoutrements and decorative accents a gardener requires to maintain that vital  sense of balance without which panic at the magnitude of the tasks in store quickly sets in. Better a gardener hunt around for sparks of excitement in his mental processes, pull them up by the root and deposit them in a plastic bag. And here I am perfectly aware that previous practice for disposing of sparks of excitement was to bury them deep in the brain stem, but it does sometimes seem that when retained anywhere within the corpus, sparks of excitement can fester, probably a venomous yeast of some sort, and soon enough they pop their cork and lo, you might as well be a teenage girl around a Beatle, which for me had always been the gold standard for behaviors totally lacking in decorum until probably Spring of 2016 when that standard was replaced by a bunch of mostly white males, a majority of them, and it hurts to say this, well past their teenage years. Purists will naturally raise an eyebrow at the idea of a black plastic bag, but let me assure them because it's an entirely non-biodegradable black plastic bag there's no chance sparks of excitement will spread, multiply, become like mumps or measles or memes and needlessly infect others.

It's also the case that the only gardener I'm aware of who has ever showed promise in the arena of politics is the current leader of the British Labour Party. He is a master grower of Marrows, a sure sign of the more dour varieties of stoic who has clearly mastered the craft of popping sparks of excitement into his black plastic bag. His Blackberry Jam is certainly a work of a creative mind unafraid of painstaking effort, the recipe includes sugar, water, slightly under-ripe Cooking Apples, slightly under-ripe Blackberries, a squeeze of Lemon and No Pectin. And if you want to know what a Cooking Apple is, it's the larger sourer apple too tart to eat raw, such as a Bramley. And like Quince under-ripe fruit tends to be more Pectin rich. As a fruit sweetens its Pectin content reduces. Why he's wasting his talents in politics no one really knows other than putting his initial decision to get involved into the perspective of the central role of a winter project other than alcohol to a gardener, and how very possible it is for this or that winter project to take on a life of it's own and become like an anchor around a gardener's neck. Nor am I saying the political class wouldn't benefit from a dramatic increase in its gardener content at the expense of let's call them lawyers who haven't practiced law for twenty years, rather, I am saying that the political class has, as a rule, an entirely contrary approach to sparks of excitement, they tend to think that something like discovering the whereabouts of a winter compost pile thermometer is cause for a barrage balloon, a flyby of military aircraft, a nationwide alleluia chorus, television interviews and endless press gaggling.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Radiance of Use

It's only an opinion, still subject to agreement, but I'm prepared to support the idea that the clear sheeting outdoor project is complete. The next excitement will be to determine how useful the outdoor project might prove to be. After the last tool was put away, I sat on the chair and there's no doubt in my mind I experienced the "Radiance of Use." The argument of course is that proper use brings a thing to its essential nature, and we people "are at best illumined by the radiance of use." Illumined means brightened, as in the light illumined my red blotchy hands. Illumined also contains the idea of an opposition to delusion, as in I am not deluded, I am illumined. This means that the use of the outdoor project, rests almost entirely on my capacity to maintain the brightness of an illumined relationship with it and totally ignore its essential nature as a greenhouse type thing for promoting the happiness of seedlings. Fortunately the structure is screwed together, and its various parts are easily rescued in the event of the moment my relationship with the outdoor project falls into the bucket of delusion. And I can tell you this the radiance part has already done a little wandering around in search of possibilities that might serve to enhance the illumined part on the off chance that someone has the gall to offer criticism, or suggestions, or advice, or blank stares.

 The Girl Cat, who is a semi-feral sociopathic domestic pet, and I use the addition of semi-feral in her description to deliberately imply a level of behavior that runs very contrary to my own life practices, morning, mid afternoon, late evening and sometimes at a random time of her choosing, has already registered a degree of contempt for the outdoor project. Inevitably my initial reaction was to consider a cat flap in the paneling and not that easy with her staring at me to declare the idea about as absurd as heated seats in a motor vehicle which I'm I told is a big thing for some. All the same, have to suspect she's true to her essential nature as a cat so long as an observer reappraises the idea of independence by adding not so much dependence, more like why do it if you can get someone else to do it.  She was pretending to be missing this morning and just as well she showed up for her breakfast prior to my trip to the hardware store otherwise I might indeed have heavily invested in a cat flap, as a balm to my wretched soul if nothing else. The sentence, "Mortals are at best illumined by the radiance of use" is Heidegger. His thinking was mostly devoted to a grasp of the essential nature of us people. I guess his insight into our essential nature was that we'd do better to think of ourselves as creators of meaning in which meaning is more comfort than it is about thinking wisely. And being a man of great erudition and learning, he'd have known the Latin for that which might be added to our Hominid part.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Pure Thoughts, Naked Philosophers and the Jainists

No doubt outdoor early season projects, especially when they involve ladder work, interfere with thinking. Have to ask the question: "Are Maples spewing pollen or am I close to the end time." I was well off the ground, authentically engrossed in my work I removed a suspect block of wood, the plan was to replace it, and low a host of dormant Ladybirds. It's not everyone who has a personal relationship with Ladybirds but those of us who might are well aware how distressing it can be to upset a Ladybird's hibernation cycle. Then in the process of relocating the Ladybirds to an alternate hibernation site, your handyman pretty much wiped out 75% of them. It wasn't just minor wiping out, the block slipped, fell to the ground Ladybirds down, landed flat on a plank of wood and squish. Small comfort that it was quick for some, others were very badly injured, and who knows how the lucky ones felt but let's hope their thinking is unallied to impurity, and there's no plotting in their number that might result if not a boycott of the vegetable garden then an arranged mass attack upon my person next time I'm up a ladder resulting in an accident followed by days of agony as I crawl around legless before finally achieving a blessed release which I really hope doesn't involve some kind of after life whatever form it might take. That would really suck! I guess too, the Naked Philosophers who may or may not have inspired Pyrrho's version of skepticism, would have had a good idea of what they reckoned purity of thinking might be. There was an argument in possibly Victorian literature that attempted to find an answer to what happened to the Naked Philosophers in an attempt to find out more about them and this argument suggests that the Naked Philosophers became the Jainists, who designed the swastika as representing their four states of existence which was stolen and reversed by Nazi Regime.

This Victorian argument for what happened to the Naked Philosophers was I believe based upon very ancient texts that claimed the frugality of Naked Philosophers around food included the idea that when they did eat they were vegetarian in their diet, in other words they'd given sufficient thought to food to conclude that animals were off the list, and presumably this wasn't some randomly eccentric decision on their part. Jainists have taken this Naked Philosopher no meat rule to a very high level. In their attempts to achieve an idea of purity, not only will they not eat meat products, they won't kill anything in the animal or insect world. Jainists suggest that the "Thou shalt not kill anything rule" is sufficient, there was no need for the "No I Am" part and there was nothing wrong with a well sheltered, well housed pursuit of earthy comfort. A wealthy Jainist was inclined to employ a lowly person, someone who had no chance whatsoever of Nirvana, to sweep a path in front of him should he chose to check out the outdoors. This enabled a devoted Jainist to walk around without the risk of stepping on something like a Ladybird. Good work if you could get it, no ladder work, a lot of contemplative sitting around waiting for the perfection bound to take a walk. But it does seem about as far from Purity of Thinking by the Jainist as you can possibly get. Which suggests to me that the "There is No I Am" part is deep inside the concept of Pure Thinking as practiced by the Naked Philosophers. A big battle in the attempt to reach beyond a never ending reoccurrence, all is change nothing stays the same, it's all immeasurable, we just keep doing the same thing and there is no help in us. Either way, should I tonight actually survive the awakening of Ladybirds in the room where I sleep, I'll be stepping warily as I go about ladder work tomorrow

Monday, March 11, 2019

Pyrrho the Skeptic

 Aside from his many behavioral flaws, Alexander the Great was a man of erudition and learning. In his early teens, one of his teachers was Aristotle. Having conquered the Persian Empire he headed his army toward the Indian subcontinent and having crossed the Indus River headed for the furthest corner of the world, it was his soldiers who chose to grumble with sufficient passion that maybe it was time to head back to the Mediterranean. One of the men who went on Alexander's grand empire building adventure was called Pyrrho. On his return to Greece Pyrrho put his efforts behind a school of thought referred to as The Skeptics. Many have argued that Pyrrho's Skepticism was inspired by contacts between Alexander's Army and a school of aesthetics who were referred to by the Greeks as the Naked Wise Men.  It's also the case that a revolt against Alexander in a region of what is now Pakistan had been inspired by the Naked Wise Men. And we're talking a die hard brand of aesthetics for whom food and drink basically interfered with purity of thought, so goodness knows what might happen to thinking if you wasted mental resources on clothes. According to some a characteristic of the Naked Philosophers was the precision and speed with which the answered questions. Alexander himself apparently asked one of the Naked Philosophers accused of fermenting revolt why he'd done so. "Because I wish him either to live nobly or die nobly." This of course was the sort of thing that mightily impressed the Greek mind, and Alexander is said studied Indian Philosophers in the years immediately prior to his death at the age of 32.

Much better dressed and much better fed scholars have noticed similarities between some of the tenets of Buddhism, an understanding the Naked Philosophers would have been familiar with, and Pyrrho' skepticism. The general area of these shared tenets are the Buddhist, Three Marks of Existence. And always worth recalling that in Buddhism existence is basically all delusion out of which, no matter how you try, very little good comes and the object of the existence is to achieve Nirvana which is state of joy unsullied by the suffering of delusions, the ideas, concepts and pretty much any mental process you can think of.  And the thing about Nirvana if you didn't achieve it you were doomed to repeat life from birth until death, over and over and over again. There are in Buddhism as many arguments as there are in any other set of ideas, but straightening up in an attempt to improve our chances at Nirvana it's the delusional  aspects of our mental processes in The Three Marks of Existence that need to be addressed. These are:  'everything changes nothing stays the same,' 'suffering you really want to avoid you can't avoid' and 'thirdly there's no such thing as "I am," in other words there is no self and if you think there is, it's a conceit on your part." Pyrrho, like Socrates who was convicted of suborning the morals of Athenian youth, didn't actually write anything, but according to Pyrrho's students he reckoned that to live a good life, and the good part is the important part, you had to think about three questions. What are the collection of things in the world, including us? What should our attitude be toward them be. What will be the outcome of those who have this attitude? His answer to these questions, and I'll have to paraphrase: With us people and our world, because nothing stays the same and everything changes, our ability to accurately measure will always be very limited, so best not to call judgments, theories and beliefs true. To live a good life, best to remain skeptical, and more dramatically he suggested we should remain unwavering in our refusal to choose what's true and by so doing accept that it either is or is not and go slowly from there.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

A Gateway to Dogma

All problems with theoretical analysis begin with a decision. Let's call that decision a delusion that you're doing God's Work and soon enough weaknesses in this or that theory are no longer subject to open minded debate, instead the theory is increasingly supported by that part of us that becomes dogmatic because for a whole raft of reasons, many very unsavory, it suits us to be dogmatic. Dogma means a settled opinion that's been firmly established. A firmly established opinion is less likely to require supporting arguments, and as a result the opinion persists not so much as a result of the opinion holder's experience of how and why the opinion was formed, with the result that dogmatists are more inclined to foster their opinions by simply believing them to be true. It's also the case that without high degrees of dogmatic instinct it would be very difficult to risk getting out of bed in the morning, the first thing you'd have to do is check that the stairs still exist, the downstairs might have disappeared overnight, and who knows what else.  In another way, when I did finally make it downstairs this morning I was sufficiently aware to notice a dramatic disparity of opinions between the clock on the most worthy of electric stoves and the clock at the bottom left hand corner of the infinitely less worthy technical device. 

And it's these sort of shocks to the system that do indeed create dogmatic reactions which in some of us persist well into April. Fortunately the reason for this disparity is entirely manmade, which gives me someone to blame for an unwarranted intrusion on my life experience, my sense of wellbeing, my happiness quotient, my expectations for the future, all of which does grant me a reason to totally ignore any argument about school children catching the school bus in winter, the benefits to the whole of longer evenings, the moderation the time change produces in electrical consumption, and all along I know without a shadow of a doubt that I'm engaged in doing God's Work without any evidence whatsoever. Sadly it's also the case that were I disgustingly wealthy man, I'd use my resources to encourage a team of suspect scientists to produce a made up document that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that messing with the time of day twice a year is a gateway to the assumption that the natural order can be changed, which in turn serves simply to encourage dangerous Socialistic Impulses in the undeserving poor, the deservingly downtrodden and the Just Jealous. Tragically, on this gateway drug to socialism thesis I suspect a good number of my fellow squillionaires could be persuaded to invest in Lobbyists and Think Tanks. Cynical or neurotic ?  I'm the two, the one and the other. I'm both my friend. 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Classic Liberals

Another contribution by Adam Smith to Political Economics was an understanding of the Division of Labor which is an idea that goes back to those wretched Ancient Greeks. For the Early Liberals the division of labor was deemed to be a primary cause of economic growth and productivity. It was defined in terms of breaking down large tasks into smaller tasks, those engaged in smaller tasks where then able to specialize in one task with the result being an increase in their productivity. A more for less word so beloved by the profit motive. Oddly enough Kant, whose primary argument was essentially that space, time and causation were all in the head, and while there were indeed real things in the world their nature remained unknowable, wrote about the Division of Labor in his book Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. And if you think of morals as the Majority of Sentiments within a society it's easier to grasp why Kant might have addressed the Division of Labor in a book called Groundwork for a Majority of Sentiments. Where Kant went with it I've got no clue, but I think it safe to argue that a relationship between, production, productivity, economic growth and ideas around Moral Motion figured large in the Early Liberals for whom economic growth was a good thing that contributed mightily to the happiness of us people. It was down to more poetic minds to cast doubt on this assumption in the Division of Labor with the argument that in terms of widgets, the division of labor removed an individual from the totality of producing a widget, individuals became no more than cogs in the production process and as a result their collection of sentiments were divorced from the widget. In another way in the production process, widgets became means to an end, rather than an end in themselves. Tricky area, but consider that series of happiness making Sentiments that fall into the category of pride in the job, joy from the work, and stuff like "I wish I liked my job," "Back to the Grind" and it's all rather endless until you meet that regular impasse with the world as we have made it, then indeed "all people want is a job and a chance to enjoy an annual vacation."  Oh sure, as my woodbine smoking, King-Edward-Potato-Philiac  comrade assured me in his analysis,  "the trouble with you people, you're all spoiled rotten." He was a classic gardener, a man for whom nothing good ever came from change.

The gist of  Kant, in his book Critique of Pure Reason started from the idea that it was all in our head, so while in a reasonable, rational world obviously the Level you're convinced you left on the other side of the wall must be still there, you don't know it's there unless you make certain, and from bitter experience when in it comes to Levels I am under no illusions about the accuracy of Kant's critique of pure reason. The gist of Freud was that he could bandage sufferers from neurosis, he could do this sometimes with great success, but he couldn't cure them because the circumstances that had caused their neurosis where outside of his control. The Early Liberals argued for improving the lot of us people by promoting our happiness, they all would have been familiar with Kant's very reasonable assertions that it's all in your head, which enabled the Early Liberals to think of our nature as fundamentally belonging to the unknowable, at the same time they understood Hobbs' "Nature Raw in Tooth and Claw" but we people do not have to be. Then you've got that element of thinking exemplified by the Mental Asylums of the Soviet Union. Along with the classic examples of insanity a new delusion was added which was an inability to see the literal truth of the ruling philosophy. Never been certain how seriously the delusion was studied, but it did briefly prevent important friends, relatives and neighbors from being sent to the work camps. Yet you can hear accusations of insanity flung across the aisle today, usually from the more tyrannical of the two sides toward the less so. And here I'd like to include a long quote from Adam Smith: "The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become. The torpor of his mind renders him not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble, or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment concerning many even of the ordinary duties of private life... But in every improved and civilized society, this is the state into which the laboring poor, that is, the great body of the people, must necessarily fall unless the government takes some pains to prevent it." Fairly brutal, no holding back from a guiding light in the discipline of political economics, but maybe you get the gist.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Smith, Bentham, Mill, GDP and The Liberals.

Adam Smith's Sentiment, as defined in the connections between feeling, affection, opinion, either are or are not subject to change. For my part, I'd make the assumption that they are. I'd also argue that morality, is essentially a description of the majority of sentiments within a society. And while I cringe  at the word Values I am prepared to soften a little when Value is defined in terms of a judgment around usefulness. Invariably the usefulness of something may be difficult to immediately observe, but the judgment of someone that this or that thing is useful should be sufficient to persuade the observer to do one of two things, either to dismiss the person's capacity to make judgments or spend a little longer examining why this or that thing has been deemed to have usefulness. Utility Theory emerges from the Utilitarianism thinkers such as Bentham and John Stuart Mill. Bentham might have suffered from aspergers and he's fun to read, his "the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the measurement of right and wrong," is easy to remember. And Mill, another liberal, called for women's suffrage back in the 1830's. Utility Theory as it emerged from Utilitarianism was a measure of pleasure or satisfaction, but soon enough especially amongst Neoclassic economic theorists, who currently dominate economic theory, utility theory was robbed of its poetry, became all about when given a choice what things do consumers choose and no longer has anything to do with the more wishy-washy impossible to measure areas of happiness, or satisfaction, or pleasure. The measurement of the greatest happiness very quickly became GDP and the growth of GDP. All other measurements of happiness lacked empirical validity. In another way we people were to be objectified, our being and our future explored as widgets. So pretty obvious why 33% of us happy widgets have an abiding quarrel with the other 33% of us unhappy widgets while the remaining 33% of us widgets have pretty much given up and find solace in widget-hood by exploring happiness through the neurosis of the customer experience. The percentages vary of course.

The early 19th Century liberals, gave economic freedom a primary role in their philosophies. They were believers in civil rights, rule of law and economic freedom, and they were prone to understand that if these were in place, things would take care of themselves in the dawning world of a revolution in production without there being something like a French Revolution and good luck to the new country of the United States without a monarch to play the role of Unifier in Chief. But one of the problems with economic freedom was the extent to which "The Wealth of Nations" seemed to concentrate in the control of fewer and fewer, and as for the "greatest happiness of the greatest number" well there was no real measurement of it, happiness or unhappiness isn't easy to judge, but when the average height of the average adult male was in decline such that it was getting harder to meet the standards for military service, along with new increasingly radical and dangerously challenging ideas around how to rearrange a society, a new theory emerged amongst liberals that was led by John Stuart Mill. Government he decided had a valuable role. A sentiment for Civil Rights, he couldn't help but observe, didn't seem to have emerged in society, and in liberal thinking this idea around the value of civil rights to the greatest happiness came to be expressed in terms of a government's obligation to promote an environment that granted individuals an opportunity to fulfill themselves. It was a sentiment not shared by the Marxists, who based their understanding in terms of an examination of Adam Smith's supply and demand graphs followed by a dour prediction for the future of Capital. A time would come they were convinced when the wealth of a nation was owned by the very few, and the rest of us with nothing but our labor to sustain ourselves would return to a desperate servitude that would have made Xerxes envious. The next revolution is AI, a brave new world of social control in store for us all. Let's hope there's an AI Jeremy Bentham guiding the principles. Both surveillance and transparency, Bentham argued, held leaders to a moral standard, and were useful in generating understanding and improvements in people's lives.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments

The Merriam-Webster definition of a blog suggests that a blog is: a website that contains personal reflections, comments and often hyperlinks, videos, and photographs provided by the writer. No mention of ranting, raving, irrational thought process pandering for likes and subscribers, a total absence of peer review, and nothing at all about blogging and the internet generally being a playground for the Devil and his demons. Interesting thing about Noah Webster, in his attempt to standardize the English language as it was used in the Americas he decided that in order to get his mind around the etymology of a great many words as they had come to be used by the English language in the course of the language's development in the Americas he'd have to learn 26 languages. His American Dictionary of the English Language took him twenty years of work to achieve a formal understanding of 70,000 words. In 1828 at the age of 70 he published his dictionary, which contained around 12,000 brand new English words that had never appeared in a dictionary before. Skunk and the plant Squash were two of those new words, and amazingly very few copies were sold. Well worth noting also, Noah Webster was of the opinion that the more traditional formal spelling of English words was far too complicated, which is why in American English it's color, not colour. And little did he know, that for a person who had been educated in the school systems of England, and who might have spent many hours in spelling detention, this new spelling of words pretty much put the kybosh on any capacity that a person might have been able to painfully develop in the area of spelling. It's also true that any flaw in the erudition and brilliance of a blogger is either someone else's fault or his or her own pathetic and deliberate attempt to appeal to the venality of others. All of which is a round about way of saying that with us people, outside of our fevered dreams, there is no such place as Free Market, never has been, never will be. And, I'll claim, that if Adam Smith were a young man today, he'd have advanced his Theory of Moral Sentiments by exploring social media rather than through an understanding of Markets that emerged from His Wealth of Nations a book inspired by the collapse of a Scottish Bank in his home town. He studied Moral Philosophy in Glasgow, Scotland, were he was awarded a scholarship usually reserved for future Clergymen to go to college at Oxford University in England. Given his admiration for the atheist Hume, pretty certain his interpretation of the bible wasn't literal, nor did he anticipate the literal truth being possible this side of the empirical process which is basically "if you can't demonstrate it best not to assume you're right." As a teacher Adam Smith gave lectures on Rhetoric and he became a professor of Logic at Glasgow University.

In Adam Smith's argument, the Free Market was an ideal form and he suggested that out of this ideal form an invisible hand might effectively guide the use of resources toward the service of all of us and by so doing it would remove that responsibility of market guidance from the always suspect, unsportsmanlike and regularly impure motives of us people with respect to wealth as it was created through the exchange of goods and services in a market. Nor was Adam Smith some random blogger like me, he was following the tradition of the learned, well  tutored he was positing an ideal form on the understanding that it was a rhetorical device through which to extol the value of one end of a continuum of possible markets, which in his time were laden by a bunch of regulations imposed by church, politicians, guilds and Crown Monopolies. In the late 1700's what passed for a Market would today have been deemed high order tyranny except possibly by the very wealthy. Smith experienced a banking crisis in Scotland that he read as the abject failure of the markets as they were, the results of which were catastrophic for young old, rich and poor. He understood the informality of markets, the living nature of markets, the emergence of norms, custom, relationships and adherence to tradition in markets, it wasn't all about widgets and the universal application of supply and demand graphs. Adam Smith would have argued if you bail out a bank for the unwarranted risks it might have taken in the pursuit of profit there's no way the market itself, free or otherwise, would discipline the behavior of the bank, rather the probability of a bank being bailed out would simply be added to a Banker's appetite for unwarranted risk taking. So if you're going to bail out a bank for it's errors, instead of just letting the bank fold as a lesson to other banks, best to make certain the disciplining of the bank's behavior came from somewhere, preferably somewhere that doesn't require a catastrophe for young old, rich and poor. Before Wealth of Nations, Smith wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments in which he proposed that we people come into the world without a book full of morals and through the course of our lives we develop our idea of morality, or our sentiment which is defined as feeling, affection, opinion, by seeking the approval of and taking our cue from others. The freer we all are, he argued, the more likely our notions of moral behavior would achieve a standard which instead of being stuck in some kind of obstinate, reactionary rut wholly unsuited to a rapidly changing world and means of production that would serve us more fulsomely. There's argument of course, but he figured on developing this theory of sentiments through an understanding of markets. How they worked, the results of how they worked and how they might be designed or permitted to work better. Adam Smith was a liberal in the classic sense, a combination of civil liberties, faith in the rule of law and economic freedom, all elements working in a unison. And while we all become rabid around what free might be, worth noting that apparently Adam Smith was very absent minded and he talked to himself a lot.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Blue Jays, Biophilia and Critical Theory

There's a good way to tell whether a Raptor is on the prowl. You look around and the Birds are silent and suddenly they are all gone, except Crows and sometimes an elderly Mockingbird who might have been your friend through thick and thin for a lot of years. Yet one Fall, a busy, confusing time for a Blue Jay, I watched a crowd of Blue Jays mocking a small Falcon. They were like flies to the Falcon, aggravating rather than threatening. But the Blue Jays were in high dudgeon, a rage in them that would not go away, they'd had enough of hiding, it was time to take a stand. Bolder Blue Jays would fly at the Falcon, loudly egged on by other Blue Jays. Then the Falcon made her move, she attacked a Blue Jay, fell to the ground with her victim who screamed as he or she died. The silence that followed was absolute, then as if by magic the crowd of Blue Jays disappeared, not a sound or sight of them. The Falcon didn't eat the Blue Jay, just left it there. I'd never seen such a behavior from Blue Jays, it seemed extraordinary, the memory of it clung in that way that memories can, drifting to the point where the truth of it, the interpretation of it, meets doubt. Days later, a good long way from where the Blue Jay had died, I found a range of sodden Blue Jay feathers that had been there a while. Maybe, I thought, it was the killing of this Blue Jay that had set a crowd of Blue Jays to rage against that small, bad tempered Falcon. A long step to take for a man of science, what's next they'd ask, as you fall into the Rabbit hole, end up in a Pantheon where there's a God of Blue Jays celebrating a birthday and calling for the defeat of all Falcon-Kind. In answer, there could be a suggestion that the moment kind of reminded me of a Nuremberg Rally, a whole bunch of Blue Jays all of a sudden going whobbidy-whobbity at the prospect of sticking it to someone because of who they are. It's also the case that back in the day, we were more like Baboons are around Lions, Leopards and Hyena. We were a difficult, disobedient, annoying, hardly worth the hassle kind of prey, but no match, unless we became as one in defense of each one of us, especially our children, the bigger our group the stronger we were.

 The question, why do we like flowers? is not usually answered with, because where there are flowers there's a potential for fruit in the future. As a jobbing gardener a scientific mind soon realizes that there's a whole thing with the interpretation of blooms which for mental health reasons just have to be dismissed as a neurosis and accepted rather than debated otherwise someone else gets an easy job. At the same time, where there are flowers there's a potential for Bees and Butterflies in the future. And given the current flow in these pages of what's called the Biophilia Hypothesis (philia in a word means fondness) I think I'm well prepared to embrace the idea that propagating a genetic mutation that became the Pollen-less Sunflower is a high order act of vandalism that's up there with that bouquet of neurotic behaviors displayed within certain political inclinations which I indeed hope are entirely fruitless. Quickly defined Fromm's Biophilia is a name he gave to that instinct he spoke of which leads us people toward relationships with our world and with others of our kind, it goes back to Aristotle's observation "Love of Living Things." It's in Critical Theory were doubt is expressed about whether economic systems devoted to worshipping a very limited idea of plenty might promote our more Biophilic elements in a manner which, as Freud might have put it, avoid becoming entirely neurotic. I guess a person can say neurotic too often, but it was Freud's view that there was no actual cure, the best he could do was bandage up and send back to the front line, the rest was down to us. His bandages were long talks, more anomalous patients probably had to pay less, and soon enough as Critical Theorists looked for societal solutions, Freud's bandages became the cheaper chemicals. I remember an old gardener, arthritic he smelled of damp earth and woodbine cigarettes, he suffered from a bad case of King Edward Potato Philia, he pretty much whispered around his crop so as not to unsettle his "little darlings," telling me that the trouble with "you" people "you're all spoiled rotten." It was as simple as that for him.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Flowers, Fear, Freedom and the Future

A gardener brings his winter project to a close, not so much by actually finishing it or even putting it away, rather as a result of hearing the call of a seasonal curse to pull himself together, shave and reacquaint himself with the outdoors. But when that outdoors is incredibly inclement, what remains of a gardener's mind and his atrophied body puffed out by simply climbing the stairs, there's what I guess might be called an unhealthy limbo which contains a touch or two of a guilt ridden purgatory characterized by seeking solace in long, smug, often pompous and usually incomprehensible diatribes upon these pages. In the old days you could find in March 5th, which is RIP JHC Day, reason enough to just drink away the time, but not these days, so best to seek comfort from exploring the construction of an idea. Given the proximity of an Equinox, the itching for seedlings and the stands of frozen Snow Drops, why chose an idea from Erich Fromm, well in 1941 he wrote a book that had two titles. In North America it was called Escape from Freedom and in Europe it was called Fear of Freedom. The Spanish edition was titled Miedo a la Libertad. The Spanish word libertad means Freedom, and you might notice that libertad could easily be read as Libtard, and in the lilt of the Spanish Language libertad does sound like the word, which amongst a great many other words, is currently used to describe us proud snowflakes. The title in German of Fromm's 1941 book can be translated as either Fear of, or Dread of Freedom. From a brief glance at this title in the secondhand book shop a person might think, "I'm not afraid of freedom. I love freedom" and they'd move along the shelves. But had the title contained a question, such as "Why be afraid of Freedom?" then it's possible the one undergoing a shopping experience might have paused a while considered something like the adoration of a Oneness at a Nuremberg Rally, think about "Better Together," ponder "It Takes a Village" or "I Alone Made This" and then might have compared the price of Fear of Freedom with the contents of his purse, on the understanding that the purchase wasn't an excuse to leave the shop, rather it was a noble sacrifice to gain insight into why others were afraid of freedom. Then you get the book back to your room, check to see if the radio has decided to work, the neighbors aren't yelling at each other, you don't feel tired so you settle down to read. Straight away you're persuaded to question the why's and what's of freedom. It's not so much defining the word, as asking the question of freedom "Who are you and where do you come from?" "Are you innate in us?" "Are you real or are you just a word to be thrown around as a rallying cry for this or that political cause?" "Is it worth even devoting an entire book to you?" "If we were actually free I could rob a bank and it wouldn't be called robbery." The problem, Fromm argues, is that because freedom isn't something like a liver, something that stays where it is, does its job and when it fails you die, a give me freedom or give me death type thing, rather the many ambiguities and contradictions in the word Freedom are better explored through psychology.

It's true also that we people haven't changed much, despite wishes to the contrary while our tool making capacity has made many a leap, the processes we have within our brains haven't evolved for two hundred thousand years, maybe more. It's one of those tragic Yahweh type things I guess, I am what I am. Fromm suggested that as a psychological problem, Freedom might be explored within the circumstances of how and why we people Feel Safe. There's a poster that goes back to the second world war, it has four home loving paintings with grannies serving up meals, perfect children, obedient wives, pipe smoking husbands, all of them whitey, white, white and solidly middle class. The titles of the four paintings answer the poster's question which was "Why We Fight?" The answers "Freedom of Speech," "Freedom of Worship," "Freedom from Want," "Freedom from Fear."  The poster did simplify the motivations behind the second world war a little, but I think Fromm would have essentially approved of  the combination of "Freedoms To" and "Freedoms From" expressed by the poster.  Fromm quotes John Dewey's Freedom and Culture, another Democratic Socialist, who might also have seen the Why We Fight poster hanging on the walls of a railway station ticket office somewhere. Dewey's point was that Fascism which had forced Fromm into exile wasn't just something that could happen over there, it could happen over here and it could do so as a result of what went on inside the minds of each one of us were we to be driven to look for a uniformity in the authority of a strong leader who promised that in him, rather than in our institutions and traditions, we'd find safety. Fromm also goes to Freud for his understanding of neurosis, the process in our mind that have an inclination to pretty much become totally irrational as we attempt to deal with even minor stresses, anything from fear of spiders to a fear of a caravan of men, women and children two thousand miles away.  At the same time Fromm's argument contains the idea that with respect to the happiness quotient, entirely possible we people were generally happier in feudal times than we are now as we grapple with the uncertainties of trade cycles and the free wheeling avarice deemed central to the success of modern commerce that would appear to feed on the fear most have of losing their job because without it they have nothing. Feeling safe is an odd thing, he offered. For some of us, too much freedom leads to uncertainties that actually make us feel less safe, and too little freedom leads to frustration and anger. Later in his career, as he settled into critical theory, Fromm explored the need to feel safe and how we people managed the problem through developing functioning relationships with our world and others of our kind. He reckoned it was the passage of an instinct that drove us in this direction, not so much a runaway as fast as you can, more like why do we like flowers? Because when the very early hominids first knapped flint, two and half million years ago, wherever there were flowers, there lay the possibility of fruit in the future. And indeed there was the grave of a Neanderthal discovered, it was something like sixty thousand years old, I think, in which the remains of spring blooms were found, have to wonder whether those blooms had belonged to a fruit bearing plant and their potential for food had been wasted, or whether they represented a developing notion of the future in the species Hominid.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Acting Primary Caretaker and Hannibal

Frigid morning, your Acting Primary Caregiver has settled his charges and even though there could well be a Vole under the bed all through the house not a rug is currently being rumpled. It's probably enough to say that some of us might not yet be entirely convinced by the assumption that a domestic pet  of some kind who's taken to licking your face to check for a pulse in the early hours provides a more wholesome life experience for us old people. But it could offer a perspective on the theory behind the assertions that uphold the concept of emotional support animals. And while it's perfectly understandable why someone's emotional support canine savaged an out of control  little boy at an airport, this whole area does seem like yet one more symptom of decline in the species Homo Sapiens. Don't get me wrong, I'm right there with William Wordsworth, his "little we see in nature that is ours" and he goes on a bit about how he kind of yearned to belong to the interpretations of a more pagan creed so that he could think in terms of Proteus rising from the sea and maybe hear Triton blowing his wreathed horn. It was a troubling sense he expressed in the poem of feeling out of tune with the wider world, it was a sense of loss as much as anything. A Fatalism some might argue. And there'll be quarreling of course but it was empiricists who offered the idea there is safety in the objective which in conjunction with a pursuit of nationalism's requirement to worship material wealth at all cost that did away with the Romantics by turning them into advertising agencies, public relations firms and whatever instragram is.

So, in my world, any sort of interpersonal relationship between us people and a fellow living being is entirely healthy, even if I have yet to grasp the Glass Bead Game emotional dependence some appear to have forged with pet Dogs, pet Budgerigars, pet Boa Constrictors and it's quite a long list. But in the interest of full disclosure I once had a very warm and loving relationship with a Stick Insect, I'd watched the little creature emerge from an egg that looked just like a seed. Stick Insect eggs, not the Praying Mantis cold tolerant egg sac, look exactly like seeds so that certain Ants will bury them, keep them safe from predators. And like Domestic Felines, Stick Insects can be very picky about what they eat. The Girl Cat won't eat Captain's Catch, but she goes crazy for Salmon Dinner. The Kitten, naturally insists on being fed the over priced Rachael Ray labeled Dry Food. I was lucky with Hannibal, he or she ate fresh Privet leaves and was always appreciative. The point is, I wouldn't dream of even thinking about the Kitten, the Girl Cat or Little Hannibal being put through the ordeal of possibly bumping into little boys in airports, simply as a service to my emotions. I used to be a little boy, I know exactly what we're like. When Hannibal met his fate, I rejected the idea that he or she was "Just a Stick Insect,"  I was caned, six of the best and had to take three cold baths every morning for a week, Little Hannibal's murderer only spent a couple of nights in the sanatorium. Fortunately back then they didn't believe in counseling, or any kind of emotional support whatsoever, otherwise today I could well be utterly incapable of visiting the Grocery Store unless accompanied by one of Hannibal's successors.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Knowledge, Fosbury, Khun and the Antipodes

There's no getting around it, it's tragic, depressing, so best to accept that no one really knows what Knowledge is. But attempts have been made to grapple with an understanding of what Knowledge might be by arriving at a definition of how the word knowledge should be used. The word knowledge was knowledge if it met certain criteria: knowledge had to be justified, it had to be true and it had to be believed. Anything that didn't at least roughly meet these three already worrisome criteria was better defined as something else. What a lovely simple approach. Then a person has to go on to decide what counts as justified, what counts as true and what is it to believe. This led to looser, perhaps more poetic ideas. Such as knowledge is more like tracking the illusive Butterfly of truth as it flutters around the mists of the unknown in its search for the nectars of truth. And there's the idea that knowledge is better understood in the way that games are understood, lets call the game solitaire and soon enough you're ready to point out there are lots of different types of solitaire. The answer is yes, but lets play Double Klondike and you'll notice that no two games of Double Klondike are the same. In another way, it's difficult to think of Knowledge as falling tightly within a rigid set of criteria, and yet within the family of games solitaire isn't field hockey which is a game that might be placed in the family of field games, includes cricket, soccer and it goes on. There's a difference between a field game and solitaire, and at the same time, some kind of practicing and learning is necessary to get anywhere with Double Klondike or with field hockey and both games while they do have rules, within the rules there are decisions to be made some of which will be gross errors, others will confront traditional play within the rules of the game.  And I was one of those who basically reckoned Dick Fosbury cheated at the high jump, but apparently when it came to jumping over something without touching it there was no rule about jumping over it backwards. Incidentally Fosbury became a civil engineer. Like me, his college coach had a problem with this whole effortless flopping around technique, advised him not to trouble with it, until Fosbury started breaking the school's high jumping records.

A man called Thomas Khun wrote a book called the Structure of Scientific Revolutions. He used the flexibility within the game idea of how to think about knowledge to come up with the idea of Paradigm Shifts to explain the progress of science. There wasn't a straight line, he argued, scientific truth was better thought of as a consensus within the community of science and for science to do what science does successfully it was a failure of definition and of understanding to think of it as a wholly rule based objective pursuit. A shift in a paradigm wasn't a result of following the rules of the game of science alone, an occasional Fosbury was needed. And indeed two paradigms, two communities of scientific consensus, could exist in opposition to each other, and there'd be fierce quarreling between them. There was criticism of Khun of course, he was accused of being a relativist hell bent on destroying civilization and all it stood for, an accusation which still goes something like "Are you telling me you don't believe in objective truth?"  It's a tricky area, gets some people all hot and bothered, but bear in mind there was a time when a small consensus existed which suggested that if Columbus sailed too far to the west he had a good chance of falling off the edge of the world, and, at the same time that this consensus existed other's who had a better understanding of astronomy shared a consensus that a round earth was the only way to explain the movement of the planets and unequal day lengths through the course of a year, and still others shared the consensus that the world was actually more like a log or a shield that floated on an ocean.  And indeed, as an exasperated advisor, who couldn't conceive of the possibility of people surviving upside down in the Antipodes, is supposed to have said to the Emperor Constantine, "I am at a loss as to what to say concerning those who, once they have erred, continue in their folly, defending one vain thing by another vain thing." Nor is there any record of Constantine's position on the existence of the Antipodes, of from where his Antipodes Denying Advisor received his funding.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Motion and Change

Who knows how boring and disjointed your correspondent can be, so let's start with Our Man Walking Stewart's idea of Motion, which isn't complicated if you think about rivers. In us people things move, the only issue was from where to where do things move, and here there are degrees of high tension, dispute and so on. What with the American Colonies winning a war, declaring a Republic and in 1789 actually agreeing on a constitution to guide it, it was during the French Revolution many a European found themselves able to easily visit the idea of Revolutionary Change just next door in Revolutionary France, they wanted to see the New French Republic and how it moved for themselves. It was in Paris, that Walking Stewart became friends with William Wordsworth, the suggestion is they talked about nature, Wordsworth as a Romantic, Stewart as the First Man of Nature as he modestly liked to call himself, and I don't really know whether Stewart knew the French girl Wordsworth had a child called Caroline with, he later wrote a poem called Caroline. But there's a master poem, the big one, Wordsworth wrote called Prelude, it's like an autobiography, it explores himself and why, it's long, and in Prelude Wordsworth does spend time thinking about Paris in the turbulent month of September of 1792. News back then was word of mouth, printed pamphlets and there were newssheets, which being Revolutionary French newssheets invariably aggravated those in power and as a result were closed down, publishers rounded up and given a good talking to. Wordsworth read about and absorbed the aura of a changing Paris, not being French he didn't feel it so much in a visceral sense, except sometimes as he grew disillusioned with revolutionary tactics and he found himself feeling patriotic at the thought of just going back to the tea and muffins of England, which he eventually did because of the 1793 war between England and France. He left his girlfriend and their child in France, didn't see them again until the peace of 1802, by which time Wordsworth had married an English woman, an infant school friend of his called Mary Hutchinson. Wordsworth's father was in the legal profession, employed by an English Earl, I think. For his part Our Man Walking Stewart was more of what they call a Free Thinker, a little allergic to accepted opinions, who many years previously, when he was about 14 years old had been sent to India to work for the East India Company because his father reckoned he was a touch deranged and a little embarrassing to be around.

And it was in Paris in the early September of 1792 the Revolutionary Authorities afraid of a resurgence by Royalist Forces chose to start guillotining prisoners, many of whom weren't so much loyal royalists, as they were petty criminals, thousands of them, the whole episode was probably a serious gearing up for the possible turmoil amongst less enthusiastic revolutionaries that might follow an act of The Revolution that actually executed a French King, it was no mystery that the role of king had had cohesive value in French society since the 5th Century. Similar problem was shared by the Soviets and the Russian Royal Family, but unlike the French who put on a spectacle, the Russians killed their royal family in secret. Wordsworth describes the passion of that 1792 September in Paris, it was the beginning of what came to be called The Terror, factions, the worry, the sudden quarrels, the fights, the fear, the panoply of uncertainty and he mentioned a moment when he watched a French military officer reading the news and as he read,"(the officer's) sword was haunted by his touch continually, like an uneasy place in his own body."  It's Prelude 9 line 160 of the 1850's edition, if you're interested. Either way, "A tranquillizing spirit presses now on my corporeal frame, so wide appears the vacancy between me and those days, which yet have such self-presence in my mind that sometimes when I think of them I seem two consciousnesses - conscious of myself, and of some other being."  Prelude 2 line 27. Yes indeed, the river stays the same but the water flows. A "tranquillizing spirit presses" but all things go, nothing stays. It's flux, an idea that suggests you can't step in the same river twice. For Walking Stewart the river was nature, us creatures we are the flow. For Stewart the river was more like a truth we people often find ourselves in opposition to.  He called one of his books, The Apocalypse of Nature, and be careful, he used the word apocalypse in the revelation sense. In the end Napoleon crowned himself emperor, Russia reinvented and then more recently reinvented again the idea of a Czar, Wordsworth became Poet Laureate of the English Crown and an ardent supporter of the Church of England, Walking Stewart in his endless walking around searching for understanding visited Boston USA where he was accused of Blasphemy and had to stow away on ship bound for Bristol, England. Meanwhile, as the poet Permenides suggested 2500 years ago "One should both say and think that being is." I quote the translation correctly, it was an 'All I'm Saying' type existentialist instruction from the Ancient Greek I guess.