This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.
SUPPORTING MILLIONS OF BEINGS
My wife and I have land in the Andes mountains, and we are in the process of helping the land become as vibrant as possible. We are planting native flowers, bushes, cactuses, trees, and more. We are creating a food forest that will provide food for birds, animals, and humans. And we are doing some very limited landscaping to collect water and prevent soil runoff.
On these fifteen hectares, millions of being live, and many more will live there in the future. To me, supporting all those lives is immensely meaningful. I cannot imagine much that’s more meaningful.
That, in itself, will make my life more than worth it.
DEATH IS BAD?
I saw a video with Tom Scott where he says that “death is bad” and he implies that (scientifically) striving for eternal life for humans is a good thing.
I can understand that from the perspective of your own life or those close to you.
But in the bigger picture, it’s different. Death is why we are here. Without death, we would soon run out of space on this already overcrowded planet, and we would run out of resources even more quickly than we already are. Death is what allows for new generations, new species, and new life. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the death of past species, past generations, and – going even further back – the death of early stars in our area of the galaxy and universe.
We are made up of dead stars. The death of previous species gave space for new species, including our own and those leading to our own. The death of individuals gives space for us. Our individual death gives space for new individuals, the death of our species will give space for new species, and so on.
Without death, no evolution and no life.
Even more essentially, without the metaphorical death of this moment, there wouldn’t be the next moment. What’s here dies and allows for something fresh and new. That’s happening always.
(How do I know this moment dies and is reborn as something else? It’s because I notice what’s here in. my sense fields, make a mental image of it, and compare that mental image with another mental image I call “previous moment” or “recent past”. And there is no “I” here apart from in other mental representations, it’s just happening.)
AUGUST 2, 2023
TRUMP AND EXCEPTIONALISM
Trump is fortunately prosecuted for a range of crimes these days. And yet, many US lawyers say that even if he is convicted for one or more, he likely won’t go to prison. Anyone else would, and likely for decades, but he was a president so he won’t.
To me and I assume most people in the world, that seems absurd. A basic principle in a modern legal system is that everyone is equal for the law. Everyone is treated equally independent of their name, position, and so on. Anything else would be profoundly unfair and weaken people’s trust in the system. (Of course, in the US may already have a low level of trust in the system, and for good reasons.)
Many in Europe see the US as more of a banana republic or a typical developing country in how their political and legal system works, and this is just one more example.
Another side of this is how some in the international media keep saying that this is the nail in the coffin for Trump and his political career. Have they been asleep for the last several years? Have they learned nothing from all the times they have predicted that before and nothing happened? If anything, this will just strengthen the support he already has, and it may even get him more support from people buying into his “witch hunt” story.
I just watched Oppenheimer and thought I would write a few impressions.
It’s obviously powerful and a kind of masterpiece. The casting and craft is excellent. And it highlights the universal theme of someone trying to do the right thing but is caught up in history – in this case, the US communism paranoia and the need to not allow Hitler to win WW2.
This mirrors the dilemma Europe is in these days. Very few of us want war or to support war or to use precious resources on weapons and war. At the same time, we are faced with Putin set on his imperial plan of invading and taking over his neighbors. The choice is to allow him to keep invading and taking over sovereign nations, or support them in resisting him. In my case, I choose the latter even if I am not happy about it. I don’t see any other reasonable option.
I also thought the movie was overloaded with strong editing and music effects. (A lot of handheld cameras, epic music, cuts to explosions and cosmic scenes, cuts between color and black and white, and so on.) It felt a bit like a movie student trying to impress his teachers. To me, the human side drowned in all the movie magic effects. I didn’t get very much drawn into it.
It felt like the screenwriter(s) tried to include too much, so it all became a bit superficial. Perhaps they tried to include all the highlights of the long book it’s based on? Following him more in-depth for one or two pivotal days would almost certainly have been more interesting for me.
For me, Lunana: A yak in the classroom was far more powerful. Perhaps because it was so simple and heartfelt and drew me into the story and the lives of the people.
SCHOOLS ARE WHERE SOCIALIZATION HAPPENS?
I saw an NPR story that said “schools are where socialization happens”.
That may be true, but perhaps not in the way people mean it when they say those kinds of things.
We obviously don’t need schools to be well-socialized. Homeschooled kids are often far better socialized than the ones who went to school. And schools often create an unhealthy form of socialization.
To me, it seems an obviously terrible idea to put large numbers of kids of the same age together in that way. It’s bound to create problems. (Of course, this view is colored by my own experience of having to go through school – 1st through 12th grade – in a class that had a toxic culture.)
AUGUST 15, 2023
Since the beginning of the Ukraine war, and even long before, it’s been pretty clear that Norwegians are naive when it comes to Russians and especially Russian ships in Norwegian waters. Russian ships regularly gather information about Norway along the coastline, disguised as fishing vessels, and the Norwegian government says: “That’s fine, no problem”. I am surprised the Norwegian government hasn’t done more about this, but they may be afraid of some kind of retaliation from the Russian side. They want to keep the fishing agreements as they are.
UAPS & WASHINGTON
I may have written about this before, but thought I would briefly revisit it.
There has been “whistleblowers” talking about the US government having UFOs and even alien bodies. They have even testified in Washington about this. Some see this as a big deal. (They like to pretend it is.)
For me, it’s just more of the same. It’s what we have seen for decades. People say they have seen something, or heard something from someone else. And there is not a shred of real data.
It would not hold up in a court of law.
Yes, courts use testimonials. If there is nothing else to back it up, and especially if it’s an extraordinary claim, that’s not even close to sufficient. It has to be backed up by solid data, ideally multiple types of data from multiple sources, and it has to be verifiable. In this case, there is none of that.
THE STUPIDITY OF LAWNS
I am in Norway these days, and keep being baffled by the manicured and sterile gardens people seem to prefer. It’s basically a monoculture (lawns) with perhaps a manicured hedge, and one or two trees, and very little else. People seem to spend a lot of time and energy on keeping it sterile and manicured.
To me, that’s a kind of insanity. Why would you prefer this, when you could have a vibrant garden full of life? When you could have a garden full of food producing trees and bushes, wildflowers, and layers of plants? Yes, it would perhaps require a little more planning at first. But then, it mainly maintains itself and the little maintenance required from us is far more enjoyable.
AUGUST 19, 2023
BURNING RELIGIOUS TEXTS
Some folks in Europe like to burn the Koran. I am not quite sure. It’s probably a way of dealing with their own pain. Islamophobia, like any phobia and bigotry, is a(n unfortunate) coping mechanism.
If I am affiliated with anything, it would probably be Taoism and Buddhism. It’s difficult to imagine Taoists or Buddhists being very upset if anyone burned their texts. At most, it would be met with a shrug.
So that’s the other side of it. Here, we have people enjoying triggering other people, because those people are easily triggered. They allow themselves to be easily triggered.
What do I think should be done? I think it’s fine to burn books and flags if you want to. It’s part of living in a democracy. I also think it’s unnecessary and not very wise. There are other ways to deal with your pain. If you want social change, there are more effective ways to do that too.
Of course, these people may want to inflame the relationship between (some) Westerners and some Muslims, and they are going about it in an effective way. I don’t quite see what good can come out of that.
AUGUST 25, 2023
TRUMP IS WEAKENED? PUTIN IS WEAKENED?
Over the last several years, I have seen news articles saying: This is the end for Trump, this time Trump will lose his support, and so on. And over the last year or so, I have read similar articles about Putin and Russia.
To me, it seems naive and wishful thinking. (The more belligerent Trump is and the more he is in legal trouble, the more support he gets. And Putin seems as strong as ever.) I assume the reporters writing this know that too and they do it to get views. And much of the audience wants it to be true, so they take the bate.
As I see it, an important role of the news and the media is to give us accurate information so we individually and collectively can deal with reality a little better. We need accurate information to make good choices.
And I also know that’s not how it is. The main priority of for-profit media is to get views and increase profit for their shareholders. And it seems that even public media organizations (BBC, NRK, NPR, etc.) often move in the same direction, for whatever reason. They seem to more often use tabloid-like headlines and engage in wishful thinking.
SOCIAL SYSTEMS DON’T LAST FOREVER
Social systems don’t last forever. Oppressive regimes fall apart. Democracies fall apart. What comes together falls apart. It seems obvious, but some seem to forget.
SEPTEMBER 1, 2023
MILK AND COMMON SENSE
I stopped drinking milk in my teens, as soon as I had the possibility to do so. Why? Because it didn’t make sense to drink it, and I noticed my body seemed to function better without it.
My parents and many others told me that I had to drink milk to get strong bones, which seemed very odd to me.
Many cultures do not have the same milk-drinking traditions for adults as this one (Northern Europe), and they do fine.
More importantly, I assume that most of our distant ancestors – independent of culture – did not drink cow milk or any milk as adults. Most of them did not have cows or other milk-producing animals. And they obviously did fine since they survived and had surviving offspring. Humans did not evolve to drink milk. It’s a more recent invention and depends on culture.
Common sense tells me it’s not needed. And that is, of course, backed up by medicine.
The milk myth is created partly by tradition (“we have always done it that way so it must be important”) and partly by the dairy industry.
SEPTEMBER 2, 2023
A MOVIE IS A MOVIE
Norway has an annual movie award (Amandaprisen) and there is a discussion about whether they should include only movie-theater movies or all movies.
Of course, it’s an opportunity to reflect on some aspects of the experience of watching movies. And yet, the writing is on the wall. We know how it’s already looking and some of how it likely will be in the future.
We know that a movie is a movie, no matter how or where we watch it.
We know it doesn’t really matter. The distinction is somewhat artificial.
In this case, the snobbery is mostly driven by the movie theater industry. They want to pretend that only movie-theater movies are “real” movies even if it’s obviously absurd. They want to protect their business. And they go about it in a way that already seems outdated.
Acknowledging movies independent of where or how it’s viewed doesn’t mean movie theaters will go away. There will always be a market for larger movie theaters and that particular experience.
WHY MORE YOUNG PEOPLE ON DISABILITY?
There are more young people on disability in Norway now compared to a few decades ago.
Why? There are some general categories of possibilities. For instance, it has to do with changes in lifestyle (less active, more refined foods, more overweight). There may be other things influencing health. (More toxins in food, water, and air.) There may be policy changes. Or doctors may do something differently.
For instance, doctors in the past had more time with their patients, so they may have preferred to take it slow with the disability process. (“Let’s wait a few years and see how it goes before we make a final decision.”) Doctors these days are overworked and have much less time for each patient, so they may prefer to get it done and out of the world. Since they now also are publicly rated by their patients, they may also be more service-minded.
SEPTEMBER 16, 2023
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3
I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 on the plane the other day, and I found it surprisingly moving. (Is it embarrassing to cry on a plane? Not really.)
In many ways, it was very silly with bad jokes and jokey visuals. (One of the things that makes te Guardian movies fun to watch for me.)
So why was it so moving? Likely because it addressed profoundly important topics around suffering, friendship, compassion, and acting to prevent suffering. It showed a deeper truth, beyond the jokes.
SEPTEMBER 19, 2023
A PREFERENCE FOR SILENCE IS ELITIST?
I have seen some articles and discussions on this topic: A preference for silence is elitist. Privileged people want to impose their own preferences on others who enjoy noise.
I understand, to some extent, where this is coming from.
It is probably true that people in privileged positions in life prefer silence. They prefer quiet neighborhoods. They prefer to not be disturbed by noise from neighbors. And they have the means to largely create that type of life for themselves. They get used to silence. (Or, at the very least, the noise they themselves chose and produce.)
People in less privileged positions have less choice. They may live in small apartments with thin walls. They may live near busy streets. They may enjoy loud music since it’s a cheap and available form for entertainment and distraction. And it may seem unfair when people of privilege want them to be quiet.
When I am in Norway, I am in places where it mostly is quiet. (At a cabin by a lake in the forest or in a small and mostly quiet town.) I love quiet.
Now that I am in a large city in Latin America for a few days, I am reminded that silence is not the norm for many people. Here, it’s noisy. A lot of people (twice the population of Norway) live within a relatively small space. This is a city without any significant public transportation so people need to use motorcycles and cars that are often old and noisy.
I understand that some get used to noise and may even like to distract themselves with noise (e.g. loud music).
And yet, there is a bigger picture here. No non-human species like noise. Non-human beings typically move away from any kind of noise. Research shows that regular exposure to noise – for instance, traffic – leads to chronic stress which in turn leads to a weakened immune system and so on.
Noise is not natural for us. Chronic noise is not good for us.
STRANGE NEW WORLDS AND BEING SEEN
musical number, a loved one seeing us, allowing us to be more of who and what we are
CLEANING OUT CHILDHOOD HOME
THE INSANITY OF PESTICIDES
A SUICIDAL CIVILIZATION
It’s also entertaining since it at a meta-level makes fun of people who post these types of things because they don’t like it when language changes. Our language is always changing and always in flux, and there have always been people who didn’t like it, even if they too use a language that has already gone through innumerable changes throughout history. It’s somewhat amusing that they don’t seem to realize that they use a language that’s the product of innumerable changes throughout human history while criticizing people who are at the forefront of those changes today.