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Category: Humans

In the Dark
Maybe this is a metaphor for our new reality. Walting in the dark for the lights to come back on. Either that, or waiting in the dark for word to run like hell so as not to be burned to a crisp in a wildfire. I’m still not sure which it will be.

It is my belief, as I sit here, that my electricity will soon be returned to me, and that no immediate harm will come to me and my loved ones. That is not to say that life will return to normal, because normal isn’t normal any more. The good old days are not coming back.

Those days had problems of their own, of course, like the possibility of all-out nuclear war. That particular Sword of Damocles is still hanging there, but somehow its isn’t the source of dread it used to be. It has, however, has been joined by a new sword that’s all about global warming and the slow, agonizing death of human civilization. It is looming over me right now as I wait here for a siren, or a whiff of smoke, or a call to evacuate.

Nuclear war is certainly a horrifying prospect, but all it would take to save us from it, really, is a couple of good, strong treaties. Global warming, on the other hand, almost has a life of its own. It needs no ill will to motivate it, but instead grows more and more menacing even without conscious human participation. It seems too big, too complicated, too relentless to be stopped by mere human effort.

So here I sit, dividing my time between simple annoyance and existential dread, depending on which possible outcome I’m thinking about. No matter which it is, though, after the power is restored, I will still be totally in the dark.
As Luck Would Have It
I don't want to get too sentimental about the Incas. They were a handsome people with an impressive culture, but like most empires, theirs was marked by conquest, slavery, and more than a little bloodshed.

I can't help feeling, though, that they drew a pretty tough hand in the high stakes game of human history. By the middle of the fifteenth century, they had reached a peak, thanks in part to the drive and organizational prowess of Yupanqui Pachacuti, "the first Inca." He was, no doubt, a world-class control freak, but he seems to have led his people to primacy over the many other cultures west of the Andes. Under his rule and that of his immediate successors, the Inca empire came to encompass a domain along the west coast of South America that was roughly half the size of all Western Europe.

His people continued to battle among themselves, brother against brother, for nearly a hundred years, but at the same time, they created a culture that managed to distill the wisdom and skills of all the peoples they absorbed, including astronomy, mathematics, and the know-how to produce some of the most stunning feats of engineering the world had ever seen.

It was their misfortune to be coming into their own just as the Spanish arrived in force -- massively armed and on horseback, no less. The opposite end of the human diaspora out of Africa arrived at the absolute worst time for the Inca, and they just didn't have the strength to survive the collision. Like the other pre-Columbian societies that had thrived in the Americas, their achievements were all but buried under the advance of another, more powerful, conquest-hungry society with its own brand of high-end control freaks.

We can only imagine what might have happened without this colossally bad bit of bad timing. Perhaps the Inca empire, as so many empires before it, would simply have collapsed of its own weight. They did not have a written language, which can be vital in sustaining and growing any culture. They had the wheel, but it never really caught on in their mountainous realm. Still, they might have gone on to greater things. We'll never know.

They never saw what hit them, really. The blow came out of nowhere...a sucker punch. That kind of bad luck is a big part of any game, including human history.
More Near Wisdom
Find a niche, and scratch it.
Keep It Simple
As the young woman at the checkout counter begins sliding my items over the bar scanner, she glances up and asks, “How’s your day been?”

She’s at the end of her shift, and has probably asked that question hundreds of times today alone. Still, it’s a good question: engaging without demanding engagement. I am ready to engage, however, so I respond, “So far, so good.” If I’m ready to keep the chat going, I’ll add “Checking off the list, one by one,” and wait for the free-form portion of the chat to start…or not.

I cannot count how many times I have participated in that opening conversational gambit. It takes place at least once every time I go out on errands. In some ways, it is like the errands themselves: mostly disposable, nearly automatic, demanding neither intellectual nor emotional effort. It’s good to do errands, and it’s good to have pleasant interactions with your fellow humans.

I’m not going to suggest that such a mundane formula is the secret to a better world, but you could do worse. Imagine if we all just did the little jobs we know we’re supposed to do, and, while we’re at it, tried to be nice to the people we meet along the way. That might turn out to be a pretty good place to be.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon