walking the dog

every day, sue, like millions of other humans, walks her dog. the dog, oscar, is an eight-year-old puggle i’ve mentioned before. here’s some more mentioning.

if the weather’s fair and streets clear of snow, i go too. it’s usually in the evening and we head into the sun, which blinds me. sue looks out for me, especially at intersections. coming back is okay tho. oscar seems to ignore the sun. he keeps smelling.

oscar does doggy things, like smell and forage and roll if the grass is just right and poo and smell some more. i don’t do those things, not in public at least. sue, who holds his leash, stops when oscar stops. oscar stops to smell things. he smells refuse in gutters. he smells mailboxes. he smells hedges. he smells a large boulder which a human probably thinks is merely decorative. and of course he smells lamp-posts, but not any old lamp-post. only particular lamp-posts smell right, i guess. i dunno. my sniffer’s not so keen, even by lowly human standards.

i hide away during the winter like the arctic sun; for part of the year i miss walks with oscar. but come the spring, though he is a year older, he is much the same, still walking and smelling. am i the same too? metaphorically, when we get through, if we get through, this dark winter of forgetfulness, will we still remember come the spring, will we be forgiven, will we be much the same as we were the year before? the year before that? before that? before, when we sailed in viking long boats, when we crossed land bridges, when we foraged for our daily bread twenty thousand years ago? maybe we should stop too and smell the roses. but not refuse in the gutters. nor mailboxes, hedges, boulders of any size, and of course lamp-posts.

tonight (2012-08-27) we watched the remote past (16th-17th c scots history with neil oliver in ‘project britain‘ on ‘a history of scotland’) and our immediate future (now and the next 30 or so years with jeremy rifkin and ‘powering a new paradigm‘ on ‘the agenda in the summer’), both on tvo.

rifkin explained that the present crisis leads to the third industrial revolution (if we survive this crisis, he added). as the carbon era (his name for the fossil fuel era) wanes, the third industrial revolution occurs with the convergence of distributed information and distributed energy. it’s happening right now in europe, with its five pillars:

  1. use 20% renewable energy by 2020 (germany’s already there)
  2. have every building, commercial and residential, producing its own heat and electricity within the next 30 years
  3. store energy with hydrogen
  4. distribute (share, like peer-to-peer file-sharing) energy on the distributed grid
  5. promote electric plug-in transport

these pillars involve a change of technology, but at a more primal level they involve a change from centralized systems to distributed systems.

one of the pillars, to promote electric plug-in transport, is the gripping story found in the doc revenge of the electric car. as the movie points out, the electric car gets cleaner as we clean up the grid. but a change of technology is one thing, a change of heart is another. what change of heart do we need to get along with the rest of life?

think of this as ‘project earth’. in ‘project scotland‘ we can look back 400 years to mary queen of scots, queen elizabeth, and king james. let’s hope our great-great-ever-so-great grandchildren can look back on us in 400 years.

meanwhile, back in my country, back in the back water, it’s business as usual. i used to think i had, like ‘rip van winkle’, fallen asleep for 20 years. but no, it’s our fearless leader who is still in the last century. problems abound. first, he has no legitimacy–a minority voted for him, yet he leads–no, he rules–as if he represents the majority. second, we play by the rules, but he doesn’t–he figures it’s better to make the rules than follow them. third, the effects of his rules have deadly consequences. john once asked paul, how do you sleep at night? i’d like to ask the same of stephen harper.

i think harper and those who elected him and those who benefit from his policies are wrong. sometimes i think they are merely ignorant–if they only knew what i know, they’d act differently; at other times, tho, i think they’re evil, like rapists and torturers–they knew, they chose to turn their backs; or did they know? and even if they did, can god/dess forgive them? can i forgive them?

what, me worry?

forgiveness. how do you sleep at night without it? sometimes i wish i were a dog, like oscar. he seems to have no trouble sleeping. a lot. but then i look at him, and because i feel dogs have feelings, it looks like oscar feels agitated. (when he’s not sleeping or eating. scratch that. he may be agitated especially when he eats.) so, being a dog offers no necessary peace of mind.

you can worry all life long. why? vanier writes, ‘Old age is the most precious time of life, the one nearest eternity. There are two ways of growing old. There are old people who are anxious and bitter, living in the past and illusion, who criticize everything that goes on around them. But there are old people with a child’s heart, who have used their freedom from function and responsibility to find a new youth. They have the wonder of a child but the wisdom of maturity as well.’ he should know. he’s 84 and counting.

i hope i use my ‘freedom from function and responsibility to find a new youth.’ for nearly 40 years i’ve tried to remember the wonder of a child, but at times the wisdom of maturity eludes me. now i fear losing what little wisdom i have. must i gain it at the expense of wonder, child-like wonder? can’t i have both? maybe i do.

for i think there is wisdom in wonder, and wonder in wisdom. it seems the wiser you are, the more you wonder–the more you know, the more you don’t. makes me humble and arrogant at the same time. it’s a paradox. i take paradoxes as a sign of reality, part of the human condition.

for example, here’s a paradox that my describes my reality: i decry technology, but my life is 100% technology-dependent. vanier writes, ‘individualism and technology have gone too far; the illusion of a better world based on economics and technology is evaporating’. i agree; however, i’m listening to electronica on the internet (‘planisphere‘ by justice–it’s loud and noisy, hardly relaxing, but it sure beats the sound of gas-powered lawnmowers). but are all this electronica and other internet goodies just mental distraction from wisdom and wonder?

here’s another paradox: there’s power in weakness. vanier writes that a poor person ‘is able to open hardened hearts.’ and another: we humans have to choose some future event but there are very human limits to predicting the future. and another: put it all together (tho it may all fall apart) and you get: knowledge may be power, yet the more we know, seems the weaker we become.

remember me wondering what change of heart do we need to get along with the rest of life? i asked a priest. but there are some questions i didn’t get to ask today (2012-08-31), like is faith truly blind? (i think it is, but some see the hand of god/dess everywhere.) is there a way out of christian existentialism? (Soren Kierkegaard is the originator of existentialism. ‘A central question in Kierkegaard’s writings is how the individual human being can come to terms with their own existence, for it is that existence which is the most important thing in every person’s life. Unfortunately, we are as if adrift in a infinite sea of possible modes of living with no secure anchor that reason informs us will provide certainty and confidence. This produces despair and anguish, but in the midst of our “metaphysical sickness” we will face a “crisis,” a crisis which reason and rationality cannot decide. We are forced to reach a decision anyway and to make a commitment, but only after making what Kierkegaard called a “leap of faith” — a leap that is preceded by an awareness of our own freedom and the fact that we might choose wrongly, but nevertheless we must make a choice if we are to truly live.’) (thought so. seems like blind faith goes hand-in-hand with the gift of free choice. is the grace of god/dess that we aren’t alone? that we are forgiven?) and my personal favourite, a sort-of litmus test: why is god/dess still generally referred to as ‘he’? good thing i might live another fifty years. then again, i could die tomorrow. i don’t sleep much, but it’s not for a lack of love and forgiveness. i think.

paradoxes are weird. so is quantum mechanics. how else can you explain something being in more than one place at once, or if you fix its position, you can’t reckon its speed?

the english translation of the chinese word for ‘crisis’ is a kind of paradox, for it can mean, as vanier notes, ‘danger’ or it can mean ‘opportunity’…. ‘or’? ‘and’?

poets live with paradox. they call it metaphor. a poem can shimmer with multiple meanings, shaking us up, making us feel uncertain. groping, leaping, clinging, we face…. the unknown. our fears. our selves. our reality. this is how we grow, a dangerous opportunity. is there any other way?

i’m reading more about christian existentialism, barth in particular. does it matter what you believe? like arne naess, the deep ecology theologian who once chained himself to a fjord waterfalls to protest its destruction, barth put his money where his mouth was. believing that human reason is not enough (witness the first world war), in 1922 Barth argued against ‘any attempt to ally God with human cultures, achievements, or possessions.’ in 1934, he was the principal author of the Barmen declaration ‘which rejected the influence of Nazism on German Christianity [and]… the German Führer, Adolf Hitler.’ hitler was into power big time.

forget jackboots, tho. that’s passé. a current image of power is of an american aircraft carrier. but i know that is an image of false power, for true power comes from love. what love is expressed by an aircraft carrier? vanier, a former war-time navy officer, writes that love ‘is a power that brings people greater inner freedom and growth.’ he warns, however, that this is scary and painful, for it means being open and vulnerable, and it invites ‘pain, anguish and sometimes agony.’ compassion can ‘awaken fears and inner pain in those who hear their cry. that is why it is so hard and so frightening to meet people who are inwardly broken.’ but would you feel safer on a 100,000-ton ship surrounded by guns and warplanes? safer from what?

do you feel safer hearing the economy’s still trucking along? somewhere. growth is big in the news these days, for it’s that time of year. but it’s all economic growth. nowhere do people on the news wonder how much your heart, your soul, your compassion, has grown, except possibly where charity has a measurable, financial impact on the economy. how timely is tonight’s (2012-09-02) email of an extract by vanier: ‘The health of a community can be measured by the quality of its welcome of the unexpected visitor or of someone who is poor, by the joy and simplicity of relationships between its members, by its creativity in response to the cry of the poor.’ good thing there were no radios or tvs 500 years ago. we weren’t news junkies. we weren’t growth junkies either.

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