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Showing posts with the label beliefSystems

How Much Quoting is Cheating?

I'm not sure if I have ever pulled in a giant block quote before and just left it -- normally I try to blend it with daily experiences or observations. But this one was so good, I couldn't resist. Sorry if this is lazy of me. It was in an essay about the global warming cult:

This cult has grown to be so large and convincing for several reasons. One reason is that we are encouraged by our media organizations to emancipate ourselves from organized religion, in that we are impelled to become agnostic, or an atheist. They are just as happy with us becoming ‘spiritual’, which is either something new age or pagan, and is likely to involve crystals. The important common denominator is that we must migrate as far away from Christian tradition as possible. The majority of Americans, either at their own inclination, or at the urging of popular culture and education, have done so. So many of the self-described atheists and “casual independents” no longer feel compelled to attend…

Nietzsche and Desert Tortoise Fences

The other day I noticed fences, intended to protect desert tortoises. (Or some other species. It hardly matters to the rest of this post.) The fences seemed so elaborate and expensive. Common sense asserted itself to make me think, "You've got to be kidding..."

By luck I happened to be reading Mencken's book on the "Philosophy of Nietzsche." Imagine Nietzsche pulled though a time machine to modern America. I don't think he would be an angry white man about what he saw.  More likely he would just sneer at modern culture and say something like, "I knew it would be bad, but I didn't think it would be this bad!"

The limiting case for his sneering may be these fences. What could more perfectly embody the "slave morality" of the masses than treating endangered animal species as though they were so precious. Nietzsche would have thought it was just fine that a superior species, such as homo sapiens, could wipe out an inferior species like…

The Pilgrims of Gringo Road

They plod past my driveway, the last one before heading out to the remaining 750 miles of the Arizona Trail. One part of me wants to open up to the spirit of adventure emanating from them. But it is difficult.

It would be easy to fantasize about camel trekking in Morocco, or riding long sections of the Silk Road, or sea kayaking between Asia and North America, across the Bering Strait.

But walking, plodding, and trodding in Arizona heat? They are visualizing something that I can't, although I would like to. All I can see is a slow-moving sport that lacks all pizzazz or sex appeal. Their sport is the perfect activity for a puritan's Sunday.

Perhaps I am being unfair, for demographic and cultural reasons. Hikers tend to be Greens, urbanites, Democrats, veggies, etc. 

Afew of them had real panache.For example I have seen a couple hike with silver umbrellas fastened to their backpacks. Correction: parasols. And of course that appeals to the romantic imagination of a retro-grouch.

One d…

The "System" Shows Itself in an Innocent Sport

I was being foolishly optimistic on a mountain bike ride on the west side of Colorado's San Luis valley, by giving the benefit of the doubt to a trail that was likely to be too rough.

At one point we saw a fellow standing and looking at something, as if he were earnestly studying it.  He said he crashed on his bike at that spot, a couple years ago, and had broken a couple ribs. And today, he was out to even the score with this rocky obstacle.He enlisted my help in standing on one side of the rock, with the intention of preventing his fall and crash, this year.

His second weapon was a new mountain bike. It looked like it cost over $5000. He succeeded quite easily this year. If fact he did it twice.

I kept my mouth shut, that is, I resisted the urge to remonstrate against his foolhardiness.  This man in his sixties had a right to risk his own neck and wallet as he saw fit, without any criticism from me.

What interests me is whether it really was his idea. The American mountain biking in…

Murphy's Law Has Loopholes

Obviously the world doesn't need to see any of my photographs of the Moab area, with all the tourists running around with iPhones. Still, I like to take a few photographs on a mountain bike ride, perhaps just as an excuse to stop and enjoy certain spots. I did so here.

Just then I noticed something weird happening on my face. My prescription sunglasses had just fallen apart. Actually it was just that one screw in the frame had come off. Can you believe it? With all the crap that I bring along and never use, I didn't have the little screwdriver and a couple spare screws that you need to fix eyeglasses.

What if I were a rock climber and this had happened? Or a sea kayaker? Is this why 'four eyes' used to get draft deferments?

At any rate I was able to mountain bike back to the van with only one lens, and the other eye closed. My three-dimensional vision was messed up, and it is surprising that I didn't goof up on the Utah slickrock.

But just think. I've been wearing…

Appreciating Intellectual Pleasure and Applying It

A person can actually learn to enjoy intellectual pleasures, although it is rare to do so. There are plenty of folks who work with their brains, but that is a different game because it is mainly about making a living, and an outlet for ambition, with a certain amount of ego-gratification. By intellectual pleasure I mean a more disinterested appreciation of something that is beautiful simply to think about, after a certain amount of time and struggle for the thinker.

For my part, the greatest intellectual pleasure comes from trying to look beneath the surface appearance of things in order to see the Cause. Even better, I like to visualize the conflict of large trends and fundamental belief systems. I always visualize this photograph of my first dog, taken in his middle-age, some years ago.

Retirement and leisure certainly help this process, as does getting out of a metropolitan ant hill. Perhaps tuning out the daily trivia of the mainstream media is the most important aid. The key is det…

Why Isn't Heating Your Home Free?

The forests in Colorado are no longer merely worrisome. They are well on the way to complete destruction. Here's an example of what I saw near Little Texas #1:

I asked the visitor's center if the Rio Grande national forest was the worst. Surprisingly he said that it was worse elsewhere. Bark beetles.

Believe it or not, there is something good to talk about. I saw pickup trucks going up my road everyday to cut up and haul out a load of firewood. They are my heroes. 

I asked one about the catalytic converters in the chimney of wood stoves. His experience was bad. In fact he removed it. But catalytic heaters, oxygen sensors, and computer-based control of automobile engines are pretty reliable. So why couldn't the same be true of wood stoves. (Please don't complain about the cost. Wood stove customers will squander an extra thousand dollars for a stove that is nostalgic or fashionable, so what is wrong with a few hundred dollars for something that works?)

Why doesn't the f…

New Chapter Began -- and Almost Ended -- Friday the 13th

I am in the habit of reading bicycle touring blogs, CrazyManOnaBike. I've noticed how uninteresting it can be to read the travel blogs of experienced and strong bicycle tourists. The daily numbers they put up are impressive. But everything is so smooth and predictable.

It is usually more fun to read the blogs of raw newbies. They are more open about their fear and wonder. They screw up and then have to deal with the drama of digging out of one mess after another.

This is redolent of my situation converting my first cargo trailer into a livable travel trailer. It was long-anticipated, and highly relished. But it turned out smoother than I thought. I didn't say 'easy.' But as I anticipate leaving on its maiden voyage tomorrow, Friday the 13th, I do feel slightly cheated. Where was the drama and the exquisite Noble Suffering that William James wrote about?

It seems playful to taunt the gods by starting life with my new trailer on Friday the 13th, after two months of sunrise-…

Fred Reed Rocks!

Fred Reed is one of my favorite writers. I don't know how many venues he uses; LewRockwell dotcom is the one I'm used to using to read him. Yesterday he really outdid himself. It seemed worthy of a long quote: I wonder whether something else is not involved. Today most of us live in profound isolation from the natural world. People in large cities can go for decades without seeing the stars. Should they drive through the countryside, it will be in a closed automobile with the air-conditioning running. On a trip to the beach, the sand will be overrun by hordes of people, half of them on whining jet skis.We exist utterly in a manmade cocoon, as much as desert termites in their mud towers. This, I think, profoundly alters our inner landscapes. Live in the rolling hills around Austin, say, as they were before they were turned into sub…

Dancing on Christopher Hitchens's Grave

Several years ago I skimmed Hitchens's God is Not Great. Disappointment, rather than disagreement, was the book's main effect on me. It is sophomoric for a modern intellectual to pose as Voltaire or Thomas Paine and rail against traditional religions. Why don't they show some real guts by taking on the conventional belief systems of the intelligentsia itself? These are well known, but seldom acknowledged and never criticized, by conventional intellectuals who want to stay popular within their own coteries. (They have to make a living after all, so they don't want to be on the receiving end of the subtle blacklisting that a Marxist or Green apostate would receive from an editor in the publishing industry or a reviewer at the New York Times.)  

None of the obituaries that I've read about Hitchens really inspires me to read any of his books. But the threshold is far lower for magazine-length articles. A fair number of them are free and accessible at Indeed…

Crony Capitalism at Its Best

...meaning its worst. It's always a little surprising to read about the "visual pollution" of windmills or solar panel installations and the locals' objections to them. I think they look "cool". But maybe the novelty would wear off soon and I would want to go back to looking at the landscape proper. (Then again, nobody uses that argument for getting rid of highways, suburban sprawl, or power lines.)

This installation is near Deming in southern New Mexico. The first thought was, "Oh how pretty." The second thought was, "Aren't they supposed to move or something?" Apparently a 10 or 15 mph breeze just doesn't do it.

There was a wry irony to it. Here they were -- the great Green dream machines -- producing diddly squat in one of the windiest states in the USA. Wouldn't it have been delicious and naughty if a Prius had been parked at the nearby store, with all the canonical and stereotypical bumper stickers, and I had engaged th…

Count Tolstoy Versus the Colorado Arts Scene

Artists, artists everywhere! From the northern Rio Grande Valley, Sante Fe, Taos, Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch, and into Colorado, the whole region is infested with artists. I'm even squatting on the driveway providing driveway security services at the home of a couple Colorado artists. You'd think that art was a major part of the economy. Since when did Americans become so arts-oriented?

If a traveler takes travel seriously -- that is, if travel is more than trivial sightseeing and generating digital postcards -- he needs to ask: what is this place good for? What is special about it? Then he needs to do some thinking about a topic that the location brings up.

I reread Tolstoy's What is Art? (*) Before showing some juicy quotes from that book, let's first try to imagine an elderly Tolstoy -- with his beard and earnestness, now an ex-novelist, working to reform Christianity, and totally outside the intellectual mainstream of Europe -- walking through an art festival in summe…

Servile to a Cervine, part 2

It is going to get a lot harder to bicycle up to the Continental Divide from now on. For the last month I was so inflamed with fear about being chosen for that jury that anger alone seemed to get me up the hill: as I ranted away internally, the miles and altitude slipped by almost without notice.

No Ridicule for Dud Left-Wing Doomsters

The laughter and ridicule aimed at the latest religious doomsday prophet made me sick. It's not that he wasn't a knave and a fool. But at least he accomplished his knavery the old-fashioned way: by talking saps and suckers out of their own money.

There is no accountability and ridicule for the doomsday prophets of the secular Left. Most of them have made lucrative careers based on the taxpayers' money. The most spectacular example is Al Gore and the Global Warming scam.

The Belief System of Cheap Oil

Finally I found a big-picture article on the subject of oil and other resources. I am not terribly familiar with Jeremy Grantham but I do like this article, particularly the second graph, "Exhibit 2", on page 5.

The article is flawed. It is contaminated with standard environmental gloom and doom theology: mankind has been Sinful for living it up, therefore Gaia must punish mankind. I am heartily sick of supposedly intelligent "free-thinkers" taking pride in outgrowing outdated religious traditions intellectually, but then clinging to the most puerile, Sunday-school-kindergarten notions, emotionally. They do everything but suck on their thumbs.

Today let's consider some of the ideas in Grantham's article that seem profoundly true. One of them is that mankind needs to focus on growing qualitatively, rather than quantitatively. That's a big topic for another day.

In opposition to Grantham's environmental gloom-and-doomism, you could choose the so-call…

In Front of a Dictator's Tank

At one point during the recent turmoil in Egypt I saw a video of unarmed Muslim protestors kneeling on the street to pray right in front of a water cannon, which merrily blasted away at them. That had quite an effect on me. I wonder how many proud secularists in the West felt uncomfortable watching that video, and if so, did they know why? Was it because of the obvious cruelty or was it something else?

There is a connection between this contemporary image and a point made by George Orwell in his review, written in the early days of World War II, of the unabridged edition of Hitler's Mein Kampf.
[Hitler] has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life. Nearly all Western thought since the last war, certainly all "progressive" thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security, and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. The Socialist who finds his childre…

Charlemagne's Ghost

One of the biggest news stories of the past year has been the financial crisis in Europe. If European unification fizzles, it wouldn't be the first time.
But what does the current unifying force consist of? Bureaucrats and technocrats? A utilitarian ethic built around material comfort. Taxes, regulations, uniformity codes, and coercion. How inspiring!
But "inspiration" of some kind has been a big part of Europe, beginning in the Dark Ages. From Toynbee's Study of History (abridged), vol. I, page 13: In fact the Empire fell and the Church survived just because the Church gave leadership and enlisted loyalty whereas the Empire had long failed to do either...
Thus the Church, a survival from the dying society, became the womb from which in due course the new one was born.Some of that "leadership" was pure bureaucracy. The Catholic Church is almost an alien thing to people who grew up in the Protestant Midwest. As a young man I was on a airplane flight with a rat…

Rules of (Political) Engagement

It's not so hard to write a travel blog, as I know from past experience (rv-boondocker-explorer). After all, there are millions of armchair travelers who are easy to please with the morning news -- their daily dose of (free) escapism -- about where you slept last night and what the pretty scenery looks like there. Then there's your trip to the local Pioneer Museum, which is proud to feature the world's third largest ponderosa pine cone, etc. The challenge picks up considerably as you move away from the travel genre.
My half-seniorish brain is a giant compost heap, a mouldering pile of half-forgotten quotes from a lifetime of reading classic books. I can't quite remember a nice quote about needing to be almost formally and ritualistically polite in conversations if we are to have full-bodied discussions of any type. This is pertinent to a blogger who wants to crawl out of the trivia and small talk.
For instance you can't discuss much without using labels, which really…

Religion Reinvents Itself

The text for today's sermon is from William Barrett's Irrational Man, the chapter on The Decline of Religion.  The central fact of modern history in the West -- by which we mean the long period from the end of the Middle Ages to the present -- is unquestionably the decline of religion.

The decline of religion in modern times means simply that religion is no longer the uncontested center and ruler of man's life, and that the Church is no longer the final and unquestioned home and asylum of his being. Oh really?! Hadn't Barrett ever heard of Marxism? What would he say of Global Warming and the regulation of carbon? If the Warmists had their way, the taxation and regulation of carbon would make Muslim Sharia law look as watery and flexible as the Garrison Koehler's proverbial Ten Suggestions of the Unitarians.
As religion came to be doubted, it learned to adapt itself. It became less about quasi-mythological persons or writings of a distant past, and more oriented toward …

Nature Before Rousseau

It's probably time to explain why I am so resentful about being clumped in with the itinerant nature-monks and desert ascetics who are not so rare in the RV blogosphere. At times it seems that they belong in the Canterbury Tales. Most of them were young adults who were influenced by Earth Day 1970, and are now retirement age.
The irruption of nature-romanticism circa 1970 is one of those recurring fantasies that our civilization is susceptible to. Before Earth Day 1970, nature-romanticism had been in abeyance since the publication of Thoreau's Walden. Naturally young hippies, with little interest in old folks' history, thought they were on to something novel and exciting with their recycled sentiments of the Romantic age. They painted up the VW bus and headed back to the Garden of Eden with just a plastic sheet and some bean and squash seeds, back to an age of innocence and peace when man lived in Harmony with Nature, and shared everything equally.
In its 1970 reincarnation,…