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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.
Hope Floats On
Greta Thunberg arrived in New York last week. The Nobel Prize nominee had come from Sweden on an emission-free racing yacht to join other activists protesting the climate crisis in front of the U.N. She is 16 years old.

She also brought with her something special just for me: hope. I think of myself as a hopeful person; she is too, but hers is the purer, youthful version. "It's your fault," she has correctly informed about my role in global warming. "You shit on my future." Thanks, I needed that.

The young survivors of the Parkland High School massacre have that same brand of clear vision. and so do other young doers willing to do things their elders either will not or cannot do. I am warmed by their clarity and directness and certainty. I need as much of that as I can get. It’s like my hope is half buried by tradition and gridlocked among cultural restraints I don’t even know are there…old-guy restraints that the youth do not even acknowledge.

Maybe it’s just that cool zero-emissions yacht. Or Greta’s long pigtails and quiet, bold assurance. Whatever it is, I like it, and I need it. I’m happy to admit that they have a greater claim to the future than I do. As long as they keep bringing the hope, I am on board the yacht and ready to sail.
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