LOSING FRIENDS

7 Jun

I enjoyed sitting out in the sun this morning with a cup of coffee and some music from my Bluetooth speakers.  Nice.

My thoughts turned to last night’s 80th birthday celebration for a friend of at least fifty years.  The room was full of similar friends from all of those years.  I enjoyed seeing them all and chatting with many although the conversation is strained at times.  “How have you been?”  “It’s so good to see you.”  “What’s going on in your world?”

It was nice.  What wasn’t nice was to see the deterioration in some.  One, quite accomplished in his day now has trouble finishing sentences;  two others repeat themselves; one leaves for the men’s room and disappears, sought down the halls by his concerned wife.  Others are frail, losing the fight against macular degeneration or struggling carefully with walkers or canes.  Another is celebrating tonight and not thinking about next week’s knee replacement (although life will probably be better for her after the surgery).

We are all ageing, most of us into our eighties and that can have consequences.  I glance through my college alumni magazine and invariably look at the news of 50’s graduates.  There I see the deaths of classmates.  Most I haven’t seen since 1955 so when I read of their death I picture them as I knew them and I think how can that be.  He was so young. Many of the friends one acquires in life have gone including my wife, a fact that even after thirteen years can bring on eye-filling sadness.

Special friend Barbara and I had a drink afterwards to rehash the evening and the personalities.  While it’s sad to see some we agree that it’s a joy to still see them.  I think often of something Barbara’s late son, JH, used to say.  “It’s good to be us.”

EDWARD SNOWDEN – II ~ Criminal or patriot?

13 Jun

Technically, clearly a criminal: he broke the laws he had agreed to uphold.  Please, I can hear the cries of “There’s a higher law” and that’s why he did it.  Or, did he?  Is he, maybe, a narcissistic, self-important, self-righteous, pompous, holier than thou, pretentious wannabe-significant, arrogantly placing himself above the laws that help make society work?

His rationale?  The public needs to have a national dialogue to determine whether the data mining should occur.  Well, I don’t know how you do that except through our congress.  But, gee, we did that.  As I understand it the data mining is covered under the FISA Act of 1978, as amended in 2011, overhauled in 2007, and amended in 2008.  All of that legislative work was certainly  subject to, and influenced by, a national dialogue.

But, what about the big-brother secrecy and the monitoring of our communications?  It’s necessary to “some” degree.  The history of the republic is one of increasing movement away from Jefferson’s yeomanry and the simplicity of 18th century life.  It’s a history of increasing complexity of daily life and of increasing complexity in government to protect the citizens and maintain the general welfare.  It’s a history of development of increasingly broad and quick and violent danger making a strong,  powerful government and government secrecy and a reduction in civil liberties ever more necessary.  As the planet’s people and their beliefs and their technological capabilities for evil have evolved I think it is impossible to maintain the same depth of civil liberty and still protect the people. 

That said, and as a practical matter, just as Jefferson felt that the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time by the blood of tyrants and patriots, it must also be nourished by the exercise of free speech as Snowden has done.  Those who govern must have their secrets exposed from time to time to ensure some concern for care and restraint on their part, the sobering realization of future accountability.  Snowden’s revelations have provided such exposure.  Regrettably, he must be punished as a warning that our laws are not to be taken casually, else we move towards anarchy.   We simply cannot survive with complete freedom and no government secrecy in this era (if, in fact, we were ever able to have no government secrecy).   So it will be his blood “shed” to refresh the tree of liberty.

EDWARD SNOWDEN – I

11 Jun

Now added to his resume is that he’s a liar:  “Mr. Snowden told the Guardian newspaper that he left work in May, telling his bosses that he needed some time off to deal with a medical problem.”  (WSJ Washington Wire).

A corollary to the whole mess is that the venerable and honorable Booz Allen Hamilton firm is besmirched.  In my consulting years (late 60’s into early 90’s) they were a premier firm, an awesome icon because of the top level advisory work they did.  Now I find that they’re just another contractor swilling at the government trough.  Actually they’ve apparently become, in part, a body shop.  In the old days Snowden wouldn’t have even gotten an interview: a high school dropout, a community college dropout, now receiving $122,000 P.A. according to BAH.   BAH plugged him into a hole for which they could bill you and me and take some off of the top.  Who’s watching the children?

(In fairness to BAH they’re listed fourth in the 2013 Vault ranking of consulting firms, and described as working mostly in the public sector.  Still, in the “old” days there wouldn’t have been a Snowden let along a Snowden incident.)

EVOLUTION OF THE SOUL?

11 Jun

While waking up with coffee and music and morning meditation in the sunroom there came this thought:  How did the soul evolve?

(And, by the way, where do thoughts come from?)

I was thinking about a YouTube video I had seen.  A mother duck was quacking around a storm drain into which her brood had fallen.  The video went on to show how some humans took the time to retrieve the ducklings and return them to Momma.  I frequently also think about artistic achievements such as creating great music and great paintings.  I think about how my “soul” soars at some profound creation of Debussy or Ravel or Rachmaninoff, or at the majesty of the sea or at the grandeur of a mountain landscape or of the beautiful complexity of a flower.

I wonder if the early hominids were doing or feeling things like that.  I believe in evolution though it’s not clear to me about the transition from the multi-million year old specimens of the Rift Valley, to the villages from only a few thousand years ago and then to the recorded history of the Common Era.  But, during such development how did the soul also evolve?  Would Ötsi, Europe’s oldest natural mummy (circa 3300 BCE) have rescued the ducklings or created a tone poem, or would he have just eaten Momma?  We’re not likely to ever know.  There have been discoveries of art work on the smoke covered walls of cave dwellings, some dating back 40,000 years.  Were there souls developing?

As I understand it, of the millions of fish that flopped onto the shore, a few had partially developed lungs so they survived and procreated, and eventually the better lung developments prevailed and etc.  You might say that every improvement is the result of some aberration (yeah, they call ’em mutations)  in physical development, which aberration resulted in better outcomes.  But the soul is not lungs or arms or opposed thumbs.  So what developed?

I also read recently in National Geographic that explorers, adventurers, pioneers, entrepreneurs, etc. do what they do because of greater amounts of dopamine in their brains.  Perhaps we’ll learn that the soul is a result of high levels of some other bio-chemical.  Then, they’ll find some of that in Ötsi’s brain and we’ll know he was also an artist.