A Different View for Your Consideration

GIFSec.com

“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” –  Dr. Jack Kruse

I am seeing that there are three great fundamental problems that affect us, collectively and individually, and they are not going away anytime soon.

  1. Financial/political rigging – Leveraged capital, crony financial networks, overt political criminality, inequality in law enforcement, etc. has lead to a rotting social fabric.
  2. Medical/health tsunami – from education to public propaganda to a corrupt medical system that ‘works’ by not healing people paves the road to unnecessary human decline.
  3. Accumulated pollution and the trend of ecosystem functional decline – the natural world we live in and depend on has been coming undone. Directing our focus on problems that we cannot change blinds us to those we can improve. Understanding the dynamics of the planet is woefully lacking. Promises of future off-planet human habitation are a wasteful ruse.

One way of looking at all our problems is that they originate in our minds. So do we need to mechanically fix the myriad external manifestations as a first order of business or change our personal and collective attitude?

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one” – Albert Einstein

I don’t find much to dispute with ‘Uncle Al’ on that but I want to emphasize that the persistence of problems is the big problem. Our experience of life is not a without trials and tribulations. That is fundamental to existence and is to be expected. Problems that don’t go away will continuously degrade our everyday existence. If a problem is resolved then what is the problem? Persistence means that the energy driving the problem is being actively propagated by something whether it is recognized or not.

Instead of jumping in to characterize each of the three major issues that I’ve listed above and to offer solutions, discussing the nature of mankind’s perpetual poor thinking might be helpful first.

A flock of birds fills the sky in Southeast Colorado

Ideas and social memes are volatile, not fixed. People tend to move to them like a flock of birds moves about in the environment. But, eventually they will fly away to somewhere else of interest. Why? Birds are not plants. They are designed to move about. That is their nature. Birds are individuals yet collectively they tend to move together within certain limitations of time and space.

For humans, certain ideas and behaviors seem worthwhile. Eventually, different ideas and behaviors gain appeal or worthiness in our minds. It can be hard to pinpoint exact causative factors for that change but ultimately that has little importance.  What does have importance is whether the new ideas and behavior have real tangible value. Does it make our lives better? Is it about being perfect? No, it just has to be better than the previous version.

The problem is that no situation stays the same in the real world. A flock of bird lands in a field and eventually consumes the available food resources in that area. Now it is time to move to find more food to keep the body fueled so life can continue and hopefully thriving. The important thing is to know when it is time to move on, either intuitively or consciously. Knowing exactly where to go to find more food is not necessary. More food will most likely be found if you move along. Magical thinking might say that more food might simply appear if you stay put. Real awareness is the foundation for appropriate action.

Our own awareness and internal processing guides our future behavior. If we do not recognize that our continued behavior does not serve us then we will ultimately fail, individually and/or collectively. For instance, you can recognize the failure of modern medicine to appropriately deal with a chronic disease but what can you do personally to change the situation? Failure is often obvious and hopefully compelling. When things seem to be working out, the status quo has no reason to change. If it ain’t broke, why fix it!

The crux of the problem is that people stay married to old thinking and behavior even when it does not work anymore. Change is hard for most people. It seems to create varying degrees of psychological discomfort. This is why things can go from bad to worse easily. A bad situation may not be a strong enough signal sometimes. Really bad might get your attention. But now what? Do we have better ideas to draw on? What if we had broad thinking that had been engaged before a crisis rears its head. This implies supporting forethought and a degree of sufficiently liberal attitudes and a culture that does not ostracize for out-of-the-box thinking. There is a balance of heterogeneity that serves society as well as the individual.

Having a society that has within it different levels of awareness and thinking does not have to be contentious. It does not have to be about different agendas. Species survival is the agenda. Uniformity of thought and action might seem desirable until survival in a changing world starts to fail.

2015-07-10-1436513910-642293-survivaloffittest2-thumb

Social/political/financial power can serve only one of two masters. Special interests can try to control  relationships so that those power interests are happy with the outcomes. Often this is done through the use of coercion or subterfuge of one sort or another. Special interests do not consider their means as problematic because of their single mindedness. This creates volatile cultures that eventually convulse. Lack of harmony leads to greater discord. Factionalism is a lack of unifying vision not necessarily a lack of finely-tuned uniform thinking/behavior. Disenfranchised groups will not be happy in skewed situations. Institutionalize conflict is a huge waste of energy.

The alternative master is that of the entire group, society or culture. This does not mean that people give up anything that causes them true distress. The principles of a society has to be worthy for all. Smarter people do not know what is best for others. A degree of diversity in attitudes and behavior creates a robust society that has its niches filled.

Looked at from a different angle, it is not about somebody or subgroup being correct. It is not about following those displaying more gravitas or any other social affectation. Ultimately, society serves all or none. It is not the Protector or the Provider. It is a super-organism whose parts work towards the good of society.

Final_HappyCellStamp_NChem_7-14_305

Perhaps one last analogy can be drawn. There are thousands of mitochondria found inside each of our cells. It is thought that they were once a type of bacteria that found refuge inside of a larger cellular organism hundreds of millions years ago. For most animal species, mitochondria produce about 90% of the energy the cell needs to function properly. Coadaption with the other parts of the cell, such as the nucleus, has made it impossible for mitochondria to survive by themselves outside of the cell. Likewise, the cell cannot survive without the energy provided by mitochondrial processes. It takes a massive amount of energy for the eukaryotic cell to do its normal activities. It has adapted entirely to the energy relationship it has with mitochondria. Furthermore, over the lifetime of the cell, the genetics of the mitochondria diverge somewhat. Their ability to subtly mutate is used to advantage when a new environment becomes home. The most appropriately efficient mitochondria reproduce advantageously within the cell. Mitochondria that are less efficient get their numbers squeezed over time. This is the culling that happens on a cyclic basis as mutations can happen to some degree all the time. This high mutating tendency of mitochondria (compared to the cell nuclear genes) allows them to adapt the cell’s energy production to changing circumstances. This is a dynamic process based on the sensitive nature of healthy mitochondria (its awareness, if you will).

Each of us provide energy for society to function. It happens not by us being clones of some rigid social order but through our awareness of our particular local environment and our response to what we sense. Most of us could not survive as isolated individuals. We work best together in a semi-structured manner to a broad goal of social cohesion to further this super-organism that is the meta-structure of language, knowledge and creative expression. This takes our constant energy input to maintain. That is what we do. Surely, this empowers our lives in many ways for our greater fulfillment.

bean

Elephant in the Garden

There is something that you just about never see. The roots of plants are the metaphorical invisible elephant. Leaves, branches flowers and fruit we know but what’s under the surface we only have a vague feeling about. That is kind of funny as 50% of the mass of the plant should be, but rarely is, below our feet. Plants can look impressive to the eye but what if we had x-ray vision to see the other half!

Plants make oxygen, right? Taken as a whole they do but only the leaves discard oxygen as part of the process of making carbohydrates. The rest of the plant consumes oxygen to produce metabolic energy from carbohydrates. The one region that is very active in this respect are the roots, especially root tips and fine feeder roots.

image008

What else goes on in this area? Intense microbial activity is being stimulated by exudates coming from the root themselves. It was once thought that this was a ‘flaw’ in root function. Why would a plant root ‘leak out’ sugars and amino acids to the soil? Somehow great minds could not fathom why this would be a good thing for a plant to do.

It turns out that plants are pretty smart. Before man thought to intervene in the growth of plants with manures or chemical fertilizers, plants had to fend for themselves to get the nitrogen and minerals they needed to build their plant bodies.

Like for all of life, existence is a balanced mutualistic symbiosis. Different organisms interact with one another. Give and take is not optional. If a predator eats all the prey then both will end up dead in relatively short order. Ecosystems do not have managers. Organisms are designed to sense signals from the environment that includes purely physical phenomena such as light or from specific chemicals created by living processes.

The crazy part is that during the growth phase of a plant’s lifecycle the roots can exude up to 50% of the leaves’ photosynthates (products of photosynthesis). For some ‘reason’, the plant ‘thinks’ this is a good investment of its vital force. Why? It is causing an explosion of bacterial activity around the outside of the root at something like ten times the rate that is not around a root.

Bacteria vary tremendously in type. They are incredible nano-machines that produce all sorts of biochemicals, some of which are also exuded into their environment. The vast majority do not, though, have a design to feed the plant directly. That is taken care of by predators called protozoa, nematodes and earthworms. They enjoy a rich diet of bacteria and to a much lesser degree of fungi and algae. So what do all creatures do that eat? They excrete waste. Since they do not need all of the nitrogen and minerals that are in the bacteria these are excreted and just so happen to be in a form that plants can assimilate through their roots. How neat is that?

So the plant ‘knows’ what the deal is. It invites bacteria to a rhizospheric feeding party when it has lots of excess energy in its early life. Think prudent ‘retirement planning’. It knows that the predator vacuum cleaners will come along and make mincemeat of those bacteria and do it just when the plant is hitting its nutrient-demanding reproductive stage. The plant has a bank account to draw on as it heads towards it’s twilight ‘years’ (actually, weeks).

If the plant has it so dialed in with taking care of its nutritional needs, why do things not work out so well sometimes? This brings us back to oxygen. It is what made life explode on this planet when it increased significantly in our atmosphere about 600 million years ago. Without getting into the details, oxygen is a metabolic turbocharger to the biochemical energetic metabolism. Roots and their surrounding microbial environment need lots of oxygen to function properly. If oxygen is low, roots don’t grow much and the metabolism of bacteria and roots happens slowly. Of course, there are pathogenic bacteria and fungi that do just fine with low oxygen and with less competition from their normally active relatives they are able to cause havoc to the hypoxic roots and beneficial oxygen-loving bacteria and fungi. The narrow minded chemical ag experts would claim that the only problem is a deficiency of the proper fungicide but that is another story.

I think there is a smarter idea that does not include poisoning the soil, water and ourselves. It is called soil granulation. When the particles of the soil are gathered together into roundish aggregates about two millimeters in diameter similar to coffee grounds then water can be stored efficiently without the diminishment of gas exchange between the soil and the atmosphere.

Clay particles are smaller than bacteria. Between their small size and the nature of their crystalline atomic matrix, a situation is created where water can be held so tightly in the small gaps between particles that it cannot move. Clay soil can become waterlogged and gas can be excluded by the dominance of water filled pores. If a soil has little clay or fine silt then this is not as big an issue.

The fix for problematic clay soil is calcium either in the form of powdered gypsum or limestone. If it is incorporated into the soil it will make clay less sticky and start to reverse the water and air problems.

nalcbrite_hi-calcium_pulverized_lime_50_lb._bag_1But flocculating clay with added calcium is only the beginning. As the roots and microbes rev up, the bacteria start to put out polysaccharides that ‘glue together’ the fine mineral particles into micro-aggregates. This physical restructuring of the soil further improves root growth and function and the microbes get more happy and grow and the types of bacteria diversify.

earthworm

But wait! Beneficial fungi are just getting started. Their proliferation in the soil changes things substantially. Their long and thin thread-like hyphae form webs throughout the soil exploring spaces that even root hairs cannot get to. Some fungal species degrade dead organic matter and arguably the most important type called mycorrhizia interact directly with plant roots and act like an extension of the plant’s own root system but with enhanced abilities.

The fungal hyphae also tend to bind together those bacterially-created micro-aggregates into macro-aggregates. This makes soil that is close to magic. All the desirable characteristics are amplified at this stage. The problem is that these large soil particles are fragile. Careless use of tools or equipment can degrade that perfection. Cultivation and conventional fertilization that might have shown some efficacy when the soil was poor are now only harmful to optimal plant growth.

mycorrhizal_fungi

Nature is amazing. The problem for man is that nature does not care about man’s agenda. Nature is totally happy taking a thousand years to make new topsoil. We want it now so we can do things like grow food. Of course, using some nature-friendly tweaks can speed up the momentum of the process but it only works out well if we keep our eyes focused and our thought humble. There are many details to learn.

Enjoy the coming growing season.

sunflowers2

Chariots of Fire

The big technical sea change that is going to sweep our modern culture is not web-connect household appliances or a more sophisticated smart phone but the autonomous-driving vehicle or simply AV. This latest rough hewn jewel of technology will be slowly making its way into our lives over the next few years – one breathtaking feature at a time.

autonomous-car

Yes, this means that we will all be passengers in the future. The car or whatever it will be called will do the driving. The most complex task for the human will be precisely communicating one’s desired destination. Once you are safely strapped in, your only necessary action will be to exit the vehicle when the car comes to a complete halt at its destination just like an amusement park ride.

Like other labor saving devices that have been introduced in the last century, there will be an adjustment period. It will take some getting used to. The circuits in one’s head will have to get rewired to have the new reality become the new normal. Anxiety will eventually be replaced with nonchalance. We will all wonder how we got along without AVs as memories fade of a bygone era and the old generation dies out to leave the new generation with something that has always been true in their lifetime.

As we all know, nothing is impossible with technology. If it has not been invented and prototyped just yet, just be patient and in a 3 to 5 year time horizon we will soon have another necessary addition to our arsenal of gadgets and devices. The car will become an even bigger gadget with lots of bells and whistles to satisfy our demand for complication.

Remember when handheld electronic calculators became available in the 1970s? The technology of integrated circuits allowed a compact device with low power consumption. Slide rules quickly found themselves in the trash bins. So-called scientific calculators could spit out numbers quickly and with those built-in mathematic and trig functions, it was practically a divine experience for the science minded. Eventually, the general public had their simplified models that were quite sufficient for the mass consumption. Soon it was considered superfluous to teach rigorous math skills in primary schools. Why bother when calculators were ubiquitous and weren’t going away anytime soon.

567px-Hp-35_1972

If a car can drive itself, why not? Who are we to stand in the way of progress. After all, it is said it will be much safer. The AV’s electronics will not fall sleep or be distracted by eye-candy that happens to be along the roadway. And who likes to drive in congested urban traffic with constant stop and go necessitating one’s eyes to be glued to the tail lights in front of you. No thank you! Let some computer deal with the tedious task!

All driving is not like that, though. Some people actually like to drive. It is stimulation to the brain and reinforces eye/hand/foot coordination. And who does not enjoy that occasional moment of pleasure experiencing the feel of rapid acceleration especially when it is your foot pressing on the gas pedal? The act of seeing objects fly by as you are in command of the controls has been a unique experience of modern man. Do we really want to give this up?

The list of accolades for AVs is long. Safety is near the top. Who could argue with that. It would be like the approving of child beating. Compromise would be unthinkable in a sensible world.

There are many less acknowledged advantages. Roadway travel could be optimized for heavy traffic. Indeed, vehicles would no doubt be in communication with each other so that a electronic hive mind can coordinate optimal speed and allow necessary maneuvering between lanes and the safe transition of cross traffic.

There are some legal considerations as well. Who is responsible for accidents? They will happen. There is no driver at fault. It will be the failure of algorithms and databases and occasionally a physical component failure. Much of this will be on the shoulders of tech designers and the IT professionals that will maintain the huge amount of data that serves the autonomous driving sector. Think about an error-free GPS that has to be constantly updated.

So what will people do while riding along? Probably what they have always done – talk or not and look out the windows. Of course, due to a lesser need for attention to the roadway, people will be much more inclined to use their phone maybe even watch a little TV or internet video. Eating and reading (do not laugh) may become more frequent than they are now as well as the standard activities of shaving and makeup application.

Volkswagen-Trimaran-Concept06

There may be a few new rules of behavior inside of an AV. Sleeping will not impress fellow motorists. Playing with driving controls out of boredom could have unexpected consequences. Picking your nose will be even more obvious as those former drivers around you will not necessarily be staring straight ahead but looking straight at you.

So there you have it. Soon we will have our new Juggernauts for the new century. Enjoy the ride!

chariot-of-fire

It’s the Environment

Summary: The environment we live in makes us who we are.

With the development of the atomic bomb during WWII, much research was initiated to understanding the mechanics of genetics especially the process of mutations. Scientists most famously made extensive use of the fruit fly. The hazards of radiation exposure to living organisms was trying to be understood as the leading nations of the world pressed forward with frequent above-ground nuclear weapons testing from the late forties through the fifties and beyond. Finally in 1963, the US, Soviet Union and the United Kingdom signed a Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Even though there is much more to the nuclear weapons saga, our interest lies mainly with the fact that genetics research exploded in the post war years and has not slowed down since.

fruitflyatomic-bomb

Genetics became the new colored glasses of biological and behavioral sciences. In 1953, Crick and Watson published the correct structure of DNA. This began to codified what scientists were investigating but did not necessarily uncover the nuances of the genetic code and how it really worked.

Regarding humans, debate has raged for years about whether intelligence, for instance, was a factor of genes or of the environment [conditions of existence]. The seesaw would titter back and forth over the years with so much attributed to genetics and so much to the environment. No doubt there were many well-funded scientific studies of all sorts to justify future pronouncements of ‘scientific’ findings. It seemed that philosophical bias played a not so minor role. Nobody could say that the phenotype [physical manifestation] was one hundred percent due to the genotype [genetic composition]. To the layman, it was easy to see that the environment influenced the development and function of a living organism at least to a certain extent but now there was a new element to make sense of.

We’ve all seen the effects of different social/economic milieus on people. It was commonsense that environment was a shaper of individuality. Even cells in a laboratory petri dish could be easily changed in function and appearance by the nutrients that were in the agar they were growing on.

On the other hand, genes could be crudely manipulated by exposure to ionizing sources of radiation or certain mutagenic chemicals. These caused errors in the replicating genome to occur during cell division. In this case, it was the environment that caused the mutation in the genome. Once a new cell was created the genomic change was irreversible so this implied that genetics was fundamental but fragile. It did promise, though, that with enough finesse genes could be subject to our whim.

Not too long ago, genetic supremacy was intimated again with the advent of genomic sequencing of viruses and bacteria and eventually with the entire [not exactly true but close] human genome. This promised to be the headwaters of a new revolution in biological sciences. Everything about an organism could or would eventually be known by its DNA sequences. Diseases were opined to be practically cured. Life could be extended beyond the normal span. Even totally new synthetic organisms could be created via the new gene sequencing machines that were popping up in labs around the world. Could designer babies be next? Can you say Brave New World? Of course, it was going to be a kinder and gentler version of the fantasy literature from many past decades. Who was going to guide this new genetic ship was never really publicly discussed, though.

Nowadays, specific genes can be ‘knocked-out’ to create a very specific metabolic or anatomical dysfunction. This has been used with great efficacy to determine some of the minutia of cell function and the consequences to various organisms, Unfortunately, I see this as analogous to our ‘can-do’ attitude toward space exploration. We choose to act like we understand the nature of what we are doing but in fact surprises pop up around just about every corner. The pieces of the puzzle just don’t seem to fit together the way our knowledge says they should.

So, I have skipped forward very quickly to just give a taste of the trend in understanding the popular version of the science of genetics. So what about the environment?

It turns out that genes are not etched-in-stone blueprints. Genes can be flexible in the short term even if they are not quite fluid. The epi-genome which is a chemical structure that surrounds the chromosomes in the cell’s nucleus is now understood to turn on and off genes whether it be for protein synthesis for enzyme production or anatomical differentiation during fetal development. Something flips those switches on and off. Genes can even repair themselves under some circumstances if damaged.

We all know that the purpose of sexual reproduction is to gently mix up the genes in a controlled way. Nature wants to create just enough diversity to maintain resilience for a species to survive in a non-static environment. Nature does not put all her eggs in one basket so to speak. Long term survival is what counts.

What’s hiding from our focus on only the nuclear genome is that it is not just an organism’s appearance and function but what kind of power is ‘under the hood’. In this case, I am talking about the energetic engine that powers all non-bacterial cells called mitochondria. Actually, there are hundreds to thousands of them in each cell depending on the cell type (except red blood cells). Consider that If the engine does not work well then you don’t go ‘down the road’ very fast or reliably. In the case of mitochondria, the power that they supply runs just about everything that a cell does from reproduction to protein building to communicating with other cells to coordinating the 100,000 chemical reactions per second. When cells start sputtering energetically then tissues in an organism start to not keep up their necessary functions. In other words, things work less well. And working less well is not a linear process. At some point a threshold is reached where a catastrophic failure to function is breached. It could be something like a failure of the retina’s macula to keep up with daily regenerating chores or it could be the heart muscle slowly being sufficiently starved of oxygen to the point of failure of that organ and the organism. Mitochondrial inefficiencies account for about 95% of all disease according to mito expert Dr. Doug Wallace who has studied this for 35 yrs. (Youtube video lecture– 0:55:00-0:59:15 is a nice summation).

So what is up with the mitochondria? Do we need more minerals or protein in our diet to keep them strong? Or perhaps some special phyto-nutrient or anti-oxidant polyphenols? Surely there is something we can do so that we don’t age before our time.

mitochondria2Mitochondrion

A bit more information is needed to make some sense of the situation. First off, mitochondria have their own DNA. Those DNA only get passed down along the maternal lineage in sexual organisms. It’s Mom’s and Grandma’s genes you’ve got in your mitos. Their health reflects in your health to an important degree. Dad’s status is not nearly as significant.

The second piece is that those mito genes for a variety of reasons have a mutation rate of about 1000 times that of the cell’s nuclear genes. That does not sound like a positive situation but there is a good reason for that – rapid adaptability to a new environment.

The third bit is that mitochondria are essentially like specialized bacteria that live inside each of our cells. They very efficiently create the energy molecule ATP for the cell’s usage. They move around in the cell to a certain degree and they also reproduce and die inside the cell. If they don’t reproduce and die (mitochondrial biogenesis & mitophagy) on a timely and regulated basis then the inefficient mitos remain and increase in relative numbers. This lowers the cell’s overall energy flow. Over time we grow old because the bad mitos reach thresholds that severely limit cell and tissue function. You might think of it like a car engine with burnt valves that can barely develop sufficient compression to move the pistons.

For instance, now you might understand why young adult reproduction is better. Overall, adult mito function does not remain the same. It only gets worse over time. That’s called aging. Selecting that perfect egg cell out of the millions of oocytes that a woman possess for ovulation becomes a more daunting task when energy is not as abundant. It is not a random process. And then there is the process of gestation which is surely demanding on a woman’s body. This all becomes something for our culture to think about without a biased modern social paradigm getting in the way.

For those of us not involved with reproduction, our hope is to reduce the rate of degradation. The body is amazing in what it can do if given a chance. Mitochondrial status can be improved over time with some knowledge and effort. It is a seasonal timed process (summer). Tissues can be reformed and rebuilt at least some degree if mito energy is increased. It has very little to do with your nuclear genes. It does have to do with the environment that you allow your mitochondria to experience, i.e. how you live actively as well as passively. This means food and water, nerve and hormonal stress and exposure to unnatural forms of energy (artificial light and EMF) and environmental toxins all have an cumulative impact. You can be the victim of ignorance or the victim of poor choices but, without a doubt, it is the environment that shapes your future self.

street-workout-old-people-600x429

Grandpa can be buff if he chooses!

Entanglement

LCP97

With Valentine’s Day approaching, we might be thinking of our entanglements of the heart. What does it mean to us to have emotional connection with those special people that you love? It is about reciprocal relationships and the ties that bind us together for better and occasionally for worst. We can’t control a relationship yet we are in the dance. Your partner has their own operating system imbedded in them. The mystery and the magic is their interaction with you and you with them. Where that goes is a unique and often an unpredictable experience.

lovers r

Entanglement can occur in other ways. In quantum physics, electron entanglement is when two paired electrons from a single atom are connected by a mysterious communication that allows each electron, if later separated, to still sense and react to the other. This is reminiscent of identical twins that seem to be connected psychically even if they live separated lives. Could it be that things remain connected in concrete ways even through time and space? Also, did you know that electrons are exchanged with physical touch with another.

b040b2739e1240a5cfb5464f18d0e729

Entanglement can involve light as well. If we look at a distant star at night, we see light that is many years old perhaps 100s or 1000s or more years. Even though it is just a tiny spot if we look at it directly even for a moment that light has stimulated our retina. Those photons have embedded into electrons in the retina and send a uniquely coded signal to our optical cortex via a complex path for processing. While we may not think that is a big deal, it is unique light from that particular star with all its unique energetic characteristics. It is a true natural source of light like our own sun not just a reflection or low energy manmade simulation. Its signature is its own and now we have logged that into our life experience. During the daytime everything outside is a reflection of our sun. Its light is not just light but a spectrum of frequencies from ultraviolet to visible to infrared to radio waves each with its own intensities. This naturally crafted spectrum is like the timbre of a musical instrument, a unique collection of frequencies that gives it a distinctive identity. Like hearing someone’s voice after many years, this light is distinct and will always be with you even if not consciously.

artemisia_tridentata_04_lg

Entanglement can be experienced through other senses. Walking through a field of sagebrush (Artemisia sp.) in the semi-arid West will fill your nostrils with a distinct smell especially after a summer rain. The fragrance is made up of camphor, terpenoids and other volatile oils. The olfactory bulb in the roof of your sinuses will imprint an indelible mark in your brain. This sort of smell is not over powering and is quite fragile to the oxidizing effects of sunlight. It is a local phenomenon to be experienced when the situation is just right.

micorriza-arbuscular-gardening

Entanglement is happening all around us as well. If you walk out into a undisturbed natural field or forest, you will probably miss what is arguably the most important living entity that you have never heard of. It is symbiotic with 90% of the plant species on the planet. It is a protector and a giver of abundant life and it is entangled with the root of those plants. If you carefully dig into the soil, you may smell its subtle odor (not to be confused with that of actinomycetes) and with some magnification see its slender threads bounded to small roots. The effects of this mycorrhizal fungal association is that the plant has the equivalent to 10-100 times the root surface area to absorb nutrients and water. The ectomycorrhizae that are found on conifer roots have a netted structure that actually protects the roots from potentially semi-toxic soil minerals so that the trees can thrive in less than ideal conditions. In turn for this helping hand, the fungus proliferates because the plant chooses to share the carbohydrates that it manufactures in its leaves and pumps them out through its roots to the helpful fungus. In turn, the mycelium (the network of threadlike hyphae) spread throughout the soil and maintain a fungal matrix in the soil of the local ecosystem. New trees and plants that sprout to life in this neighborhood are quickly infected by the network and are soon growing stronger than if they were growing without.

Maybe love can be seen in many relationships beside human ones. Since we are a part of the universe, we are connected and entangled with everything around us in ways and levels that span the obvious to the unconscious. It is hard to not have a sense of wonder about our very existence.

63539-animal-lovers-lover-of-animals

Freedom is Not a Word

“The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.”
― Christopher Hitchens

Today I want to talk about freedom. I think that we all know what freedom is in at least a vague abstract sense. Often we will think of the opposing negative –bondage, restriction, authoritarianism, etc.

freedomFreedom might seem like a valid idea until you realize that limits or boundaries is what gives form to anything. Plainly put, pure chaos is freedom. It is unrestricted in a total sense. I don’t think that is what we might want in any realm.

Political freedom of some variety is a frequent proclamation by idealists or by orchestrators of a particular social meme. Freedom from tyranny. Freedom from injustice. Freedom from oppression. Freedom from some ‘other’.

Your freedom can be impinged in many ways not necessarily from the barrel of a gun or some other overt aggression.

Are you free to express yourself without harassment, governmental or otherwise? Maybe, if what you say does not pose a serious threat to someone with power.

Are you free to think any thought? Now, you must think that I must be surely joking. If you only know what you know then you will only express thoughts that reflect those personal experiences, knowledge or beliefs. I would suggest that freedom, at the very least, is to be able to have creative thoughts. All thoughts are not a regurgitation of something that has entered into your eyes or ears before.

So how can we learn to think originally and not simply to recite? Thinking is an active process. One ancient system of the thinking process is the Trivium. It uses three steps to create an understanding of the world:

  1. The gathering of information – who, what, where, when. We would call that data in modern parlance.
  2. The formation of a relationship between those facts that hypothesizes a why. This would be a logical and reasoned explanation with no contradictions.
  3. The development of a detailed ‘mechanical’ interaction of the parts, data or observations so that the how is understood. This is developed to the point of cogent rhetoric (teachable narrative) that depicts systematic knowledge and understand.

If this seems vaguely familiar, it is similar to what we now call the scientific method but without the more modern clothing. This is the simplified version of the scientific method:

  1. Observation & data collection.
  2. Hypothesis formation and testing.
  3. Comprehensive General Theory that enables prediction and demonstrates ongoing confirmation.

You may think this is too structured for causal everyday thinking but in fact it is the basis of all good logical thinking. Information gathering has to come first. Starting with a postulate or jumping to conclusions without a collection of data is not an intellectually valid approach. If you have a bias or conclusion before collecting a significant number of facts then you are just playing a game and not striving for understanding. This seems obviously disingenuous yet the expression of logical fallacies are rampant in society. Filtering out relevant data is not a path to knowledge just a superficial bolstering of existing thought patterns. This is not freedom of thought. We can choose not to be intellectually free but instead bound by the comfort of familiarity. To my mind, this kind of sums up the roots of many problems experience by man and mankind.

never-think-outside-the-box1We may think that somebody is stopping us from doing what we want to do. Certainly that may be the case at times. Are we to think that somebody is stopping us from having a thought? Maybe. External mind control is possible by many means. The social and physical environment that surrounds us forces us to adapt so that we stay energetically functional. As high air temperature will cause us to sweat, being in a certain social milieu will tend to channel our thinking in ways that reflects the dominate themes of the group. If we are naïve and have little exposure to other concepts then the mind will imprint without a lot of resistance.

The problem is that a new social order is always deified by those that want to play ‘follow the leader’. Why? Old social orders will become corrupt especially in our era of hyper-communication and time contraction. It is like a meth addict. Eventually the system breaks down from hyper-activity. There may be better social orders but social perfection is not of this world. Any flaw in the social machine gets amplified over time and eventually fails no matter how much ‘lubricant’ is applied.

This make the process of social change the thing that is now being controlled rather than conserving or fine-tuning the existing social order. Facilitating failure and rebirth are now the focus of change agents. This has the effect of keeping people off balance emotionally and mentally. Usually the group gives cues to individuals. If what is normal and socially good is changing constantly then there is little time for rest and relaxation. The sympathetic nervous system is hyper-vigilantly trying to anticipate the next cue so that we can fit in. This is why trance inducement is a favorite pastime of many. Inebriants Homer,_Bart_and_Rabbit_watching_TV 2such as mind-altering drugs and alcohol are commonly used as well as popular music and flickering light screens such as cinema and TV. The popularity of mass-player computer games, internet social networks, website forums and email listservs can act as outlets for the need of social interaction and the urge to express vigilance beyond the one’s immediate real physical environment.

If you have discontent with society, know that you are being gamed. It is a rigged system. Do you really think that all the people in charge are naive in their actions. Our complaining will change very little. Creating new expressions of who you are will change your relationships with others and they to you. Freedom is the will to navigate your ship and not to passively drift with the current. Nobody said it was easy or simple, though. The constant pursuit of comfort and the recoil from fear will get you nothing of value.

Don’t handicap your life by attempting to making life easy. You don’t overcome challenges by making them smaller but by making yourself bigger by thinking differently then acting. The more obstacles you navigate the stronger you become. Difficulties strengthen our mind, as labor does the body. Every setback provides us with the seeds for a comeback.

the-thinkerthinker2

Prediction or provocation:

“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.”—Aldous Huxley

 

 

Light

“And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”

a-winter_sun-891505

LIGHT, WATER, FOOD AND THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON

Some people claim that December 25, four days after the solstice, is the point in the calendar year that the sun can be seen to move slightly northward from where it rises on the eastern horizon thus affirming that winter is now beginning to recede. The sun is resurrected for yet another year. If you live in the higher latitudes, this subtle change in the sun’s transverse across the sky would be a strong reminder that winter is starting to diminish once again. Reminders can be encouraging when darkness dominates the landscape.

It is not hard to figure out why the sun has been revered by many ancient cultures. It is fundamental to all life and hence to the continuation of human existence. Plant growth starts with light striking chlorophyll molecules in nano-structures within the leaf. All life that is more complex than bacteria depend on this phenomenon of energy capture and transformation either directly or indirectly. The web of life starts with the quantum dance of photons performed on molecular complexes.

Consider that a photon, a particle without mass [or at least very little], makes a 93 million mile journey to earth and is absorbed in a chromophore (light absorbing molecule) created by the leaf of a plant. Eight minutes before it emerged from the surface of the sun, a process that is still trying to be understood today. The purpose of that photon is to create a subtle electrical charge so that water can be split apart into its component atoms. Those parts are then reassembled together with carbon dioxide into basic organic chemicals starting with a carbohydrate call glucose. The oxygen from water is discarded by the leaf. For all other forms of higher life, oxygen is the magical turbo-charged fuel additive that allows the efficient extraction of those electrons embedded in food that was once plant tissue.

So you now may be able to recognize that the basic metabolic process of plants is the inverse of animals. The tie that binds them together is the flow of electrons that are joined and cleaved from molecules as they are shuffled between organisms in an incredibly complex ecologic tapestry .

Electrons are the real currency regarding food. The sun is the starting point for this organic process. Light from the sun is a spark. When light interacts with electrons in molecules something interesting happens. It’s called the photoelectric effect. A guy by the name of Einstein won a Nobel prize in the 1921 for tying the concept into a nice neat conceptual package. Basically its says that when a sufficiently energetic photon strikes an appropriate substance, an electron is liberated similar to a photovoltaic panel! Plants use that electricity to make stuff. That stuff is a type of energy battery we call food.

I hope you know that food is not the only source of light energy that our bodies use. Light also hits our skin if we allow it. The melanin pigment in our skin can transform light into electrical energy. It is actually a battery of sorts as well. The blood that circulates just under the surface of the skin is also irradiated by strong light. It too can absorb certain colors and distribute that energy throughout the body and its tissues. This is all to the benefit of our health. Modern cautions about the sun are very overblown. Witness the low Vitamin D crisis that is a factor in most disease.

We usually think of the eye as an organ of vision but it is also a very specific light sensor/signaler. Light controls sleep and daily hormonal cycles. This is why certain kinds of fake light at night can be problematic. Blue light at night is known to interfere with melatonin production. White light contains blue light especially when it comes from fluorescent and LED lights. Incandescent lighting has less blue light component. That is why it has a yellowish cast although it can still be problematic. Electronic screen devices of all sorts put out very white light. The free f.lux program can help to adjust the color tinting of devices according to the time of day. I would suggest adjusting the slider controls to the lowest temperature settings for both day and night.

Finally, light, especially sunlight, makes you feel good. The eye actually coordinates with the brain to make dopamine under balanced light conditions. Among other things, dopamine is involved with ‘reward-motivated’ behavior. This means that you want to do things that give you positive reinforcement. In other words, you are not mentally depressed. No wonder the winter season’s indications of increasing sunlight were honored by ancient peoples. Today many people don’t have an appreciation about the true value of light.

tv child