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Time is a waste of time

Your body lives in space and time.

How about your mind?

Your senses help it comprehend space—but your mind always tries to capture time.

It remembers things of the past. It plans for the future. It is keenly aware of the diminishing time the body has left to live as day by day goes by.

But does the mind ever capture time?

“Cherish the present” is a common advice.

I would put it differently.

Once in a while, whenever you remember, forget about time. Situate your mind in space. Here you are! In space there’s no time.

In fact time has not been proven by physics to exist as we perceive it. Of course things change, but to physics time doesn’t exist by itself. To physics there’s something called space/time.

Einstein even explained that you can effectively travel to the future. If you send one twin on a spaceship, because time elapses differently depending on the speed at which you are going, when he returns, from his perspective, he encounters his twin in the future—and his twin sees him in the past. One has aged and the other has not.

This is mind bending. It takes time to understand…

But the simple conclusion is that time is not absolute. Like the Earth is not flat. It only looks flat. So why insist on time? It’s a waste of time.

While you try to figure it out, time has gone by. Or has it?

Whenever you remember, forget time, stay in space, just the space in your mind for a moment. Notice how spacious, how free you are!

Cognitive Dissonance

Raise your hand if your plans included a war-waging dictator in a nuclear era. 

It comes as a surprise — remembering that universal suffrage only became the norm in the democratic world in the last 100 years.

It was going nicely. The simple concept of one person, one vote, was a striking development in the 2,500-year-old history of democracy. Although far from perfect, it had an immeasurable impact in convincing us, even non voters, of our power as individuals.

Never had such a compelling principle of secular empowerment been floated, or captured everyone’s imagination in such a sweeping way. Now, even North Korea calls itself democratic. Until then, the world had been under the umbrella of monarchs and priests.

It was when that power was receding, and individual centered power seemed to be on the rise, that Einstein predicted the religion of the future would be akin to Buddhism (whose followers don’t acknowledge a supreme god or deity).

We may not be quite ready to get to a universal Self yet, lying at the other shore of our individual personality. In fact, many of us would prefer enlightenment to be another feather in our (individual) cap. So, meanwhile, Democracy has become the secular religion of the day, stripped-down of divine linkages, other than freedom — for the pursuit of happiness.

Still, it became as worth defending, as the religions of yonder. It’s had its own crusades — to liberate Europe from Hitler, and then in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, from their oppressors. Democracy was worth NATO, the Cold War, and the nuclear deterrent. “Freedom” became the thing.

For a few decades, the world has experimented with the social pact (the majority would decide what is allowed or desirable). It has afforded extraordinary freedoms to ordinary citizens, particularly in the more economically developed countries.

Tolerance of minorities grew, and many were able to live as they liked. The American dream, that has become the dream of many outside the US, predicates that, left alone, within the rule of law, you could achieve any heights. Contrast that with the limitations of past eras. But are we really equipped to live the dream?

As the credo of individual empowerment has grown, we increasingly want to be left alone, with our deeply held beliefs, whatever they are. Essentially, they are, that if we’re not subject to intrusions, we can thrive. We would like to have the freedom to look, or not look, away from ourselves, and to exercise compassion — if we want. We can even become Buddhists.

Enter global warming, a global pandemic, nuclear power in the hands of wanton dictators. What a nuisance. We don’t want such impositions on our utopia.

Thirty years ago, in a book called The End of History, liberal democracy, the economic and political practice whereby everyone operates individually within a free market economy, was supposed to create an utopia, unencumbered any longer by a Cold War.

No higher level of societal evolution could be reached, argued the admittedly daring, but well-known book. It made no reference to the also present element of hypocrisy in the espousal of democracy, for the sake of power.

The apparent end of the enmity between Russia and the US was like the fulfillment of a prophecy — the promise of Heaven on Earth, stemming from minding our own business.

Whether seated on our individual yoga mats, in our individual home, at the table with our individual family, with our individual group, political party, or at our distinct place of worship, we were sure to succeed — as long as we were left alone.

A collective mess is so distracting, so disturbing, and contrary to our deepest held beliefs, that we may refuse to look at it. This process has an exotic name: cognitive dissonance.

It may be another name for the lack of maturation of the individual power. At this stage, our expectations of freedom have morphed. Now, we may not like politicians or people who challenge what has gone, often, from a wondrous sense of all possibilities, to a sense of total entitlement.

Our default attitude has often become to doubt or dismiss the information we don’t like, if it impinges on our ability to dream on. We may resist it tooth and nail. Who is coming up with all these impositions, we ask. Who profits from a pandemic? Is Putin alone responsible for the war in Ukraine? Who is going to sell weapons to counter him? Is his invasion all that serious? Does it matter to us?

These are not trivial questions, the answers may not be as clear-cut as one might like, but the discussion may miss the point — that the house is on fire. A search for culprits and a deeper truth, isn’t going to be effective, if it acts as a cover for our cognitive dissonance. Doesn’t it feel most of all childish, when we can´t accept the loss of our candidate?

The sense of entitlement, to everything we want, seems like the adolescence of individual power. It’s a dangerous time. Putin did not go into Ukraine with peace-keepers to defend those in love with mother Russia, and it is not part of a divine plan, unless we are nihilists. If we believe in free will, it is a tragic imposition on freedom, in Ukraine, and for the world.

We still have our hopes and beliefs. Ukrainian convictions drive the resistance to Russian tanks. Elsewhere the hope is that this will boil over. No one wants, or is ever prepared for, real upheaval — especially after a century of successes and excesses on behalf of freedom? Who has time for this!?

It may boil over soon, hopefully. Or, we may all get the time. Our testy brand of individual realities might be confronted. In the face of a rude awakening, we may finally need to question our assumptions — about our individually centered utopia or the arrival of the end of times (some people sold their houses and went for a holiday before December 2012, the end of the Mayan Calendar).

A world with nuclear weapons is not safe. A world in a global warming process is not safe. A world where a virus can spread like wildfire is not safe. To get out of the present conundrum, we may not need abandon our faith in our individual power, but to unfold its ultimate possibilities.

Maybe we need to stop wanting to be left alone and be able to be alone, in ourselves. Stand fully in our power to reset ours and the collective consciousness. Maybe Einstein was on to something.

We of course need to abandon our wish to impose our hopes or evasion on reality, and acknowledge the situation. Good scientists question all their assumptions.

Most of us are not willing to let go of the premises that make up our individual identity, but we may be forced to gain some humility and greater balance, and yes, Self-reliance, in real enlightenment.

Was the US taken before Ukraine?

The story of how the West won the Cold War, 30 years ago, may be replaced by the story of how the West was won.

«China joins Russia in opposing Nato expansion» said the heading of a Feb 4 BBC article under this picture. I added Trump’s cartoon, since he may have played a scripted but crucial role in this geopolitical development.

Some analysts have been saying a full-scale invasion of Ukraine makes no sense for Putin. The threat of force does, but an actual war would be a sign of a deteriorating mental health in him, they say. 

In an analysis by Anton Trolanovsky, published by the New York Times on Saturday, he says such action would confirm Putin has fundamentally changed amid the isolation he imposed on himself during the pandemic, a shift that may have left him more paranoid, more aggrieved, and more reckless. Trolanovsky quotes several sources in his analysis: 

“The plan was to create a threat, to create the sense that a war could happen,” said Dmitri Trenin, the head of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank, describing Mr. Putin as capitalizing on fears that he was prepared to unleash a horrific war. 

“A bluff has to be very convincing,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, a prominent Moscow foreign policy analyst who advises the Kremlin, said Mr. Putin’s goal now was “to force the outcome of the Cold War to be partially revised.” But he still believes Mr. Putin will stop short of full-scale invasion.

“Starting a full-scale war is completely not in Putin’s interest,” said Anastasia Likhacheva, the dean of world economy and international affairs at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. “It is very difficult for me to find any rational explanation for a desire to carry out such a campaign.”

Even if Mr. Putin were able to take control of Ukraine, she noted, such a war would accomplish the opposite of what the president says he wants: rolling back the NATO presence in Eastern Europe.

What I find missing in this analysis, is the careful, and to large extent successful, effort of Russia, for years now, to destabilize the USA.

Remember Robert Mueller’s report that there had been a massive interference from Moscow in social media, in order to get Trump elected and sow doubt in the American public as to the reliability of the electoral process in the USA? That seems to have paid off handsomely. Remember the former US President granting Putin his every wish and claiming that he won the next election?

Remember one Paul Mananfort, who was once paid by a pro Russian President in Kiev, to promote the Kremlin’s angle about Ukraine in a public relations campaign in the US? Mananfort became Trump’s campaign manager in 2016, before going to jail for failing to disclose that he was a foreign agent (and was later pardoned by Trump).

During the Republican convention that nominated Trump as their candidate, with Manafort as manager, the Republican platform was swiftly changed. Until then, it condemned the invasion of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine in 2014. In that respect, Democrats and Republicans had been unified. 

As President, Trump immediately lifted crippling sanctions on Russia, imposed by Obama for that invasion–and he actively undermined NATO. 

Remember what party is likely to regain control of the US congress this year? Some Republicans have, for the first time in 75 years, been saying these days, like Fox News, that Russia has a legitimate claim against NATO.

Biden has said he will not send troops to fight Putin’s army, even if he now goes ahead and invades all of Ukraine, but will impose economic sanctions instead, like Obama did. 

Then, it may not be all that irrational for Putin to invade. He knows he has good allies not only in China, but in Washington as well. Sanctions, if imposed, may be lifted in a few months–or a few years, if Trumpist efforts to steal a presidential election succeed.

Today we don’t know the history that might be made, one way or another, within days, in Ukraine. But in any case, it is clear the West will avoid a World War Three (thankfully so).

Regardless of how this unfolds exactly, with much bloodshed or without, we may now be looking at the final battle (or surrender) in the previous war, one that might be easily remembered in the history books, better than the fall of the Berlin Wall. That may look, after all, like a battle won and forgotten, not like the actual end of that war.

An invasion of Ukraine, full or partial, opposed or unopposed, relinquishing its possibility of ever joining NATO, or its outright surrender to Russia, might be what punctuates the end of 75 years of the so called American Century. Not even a century after all. Like the USSR or the PRI in Mexico.

The developments in Ukraine may not be an indication of Putin’s mental soundness, as much as of America’s, where one third of the country is convinced Trump won the last election and 10% believe in something called Q.

Did it only take a few people, manipulating Facebook from St. Petersburg, to irretrievably infect America´s mind? Regardless of who wins this war, let’s hope there is enough coherence there for the US to recover its sanity. That may be more crucial, when it comes to regaining a semblance of world order, than what kind of war is being fought (be it hot or cold, or of disinformation) and who is winning.

The History of the World, in Five Minutes

As it should have been taught in school. Or what I learned during my travels in Egypt, Israel, and Antarctica.

Homo sapiens, the animal species that we are, has been anatomically the same for at least 100,000 years. But let’s try to visualize only its last 10,000.

It was about then, that the last ice age ended, and the geological parenthesis we are living in began. Geological? Isn’t that about rocks?

The Earth freezes in many places, inhabited today by millions of people, during long periods of time. It thaws for much shorter periods.

Well, since we only have 4 minutes left, how about dividing the time, since the opening of this parenthesis, into three periods:

In the first five thousand, the only hominoid that survived the ice age (that’s us, sapiens) discovered the fertile lands left behind by the receding ice, and the agriculture that was possible on them. It stopped hunting and gathering.

In the next 2,500 years, from Crete to the Indus Valley, the first civilizations, empires, more organized religions, and writing, began to be used. All these empires traded with each other, fought wars, made peace treaties. A copy of the text of the first one known (the Treaty of Kadesh), is displayed at the entrance to the UN Security Council.

In other words, since at least that period, we are more or less the same. Even if we fight other wars, have other gods, tell other legends, our countries have changed their names, speak other languages, and have other technologies. We can see that, anyway, since then, we grieve and rejoice for exactly the same reasons. If you only have five minutes now, then watch the following (six minute) video later. That’s all it takes to get into the shoes of someone who lived at the dawn of civilization. It’s well worth it.

The most recent period, of 2,500 years, is when our current civilization emerged. This is how it is described in a text from the University of Colorado:

«Western civilization refers to the enduring art, literature, culture, and ideas that originated in the Eastern Mediterranean basin in the centuries preceding the Christian era. This developed in myriad ways during the Middle Ages and finally took its modern form after the Renaissance.»

«From the intellectual speculation of the Greeks came the philosophical and scientific thought of our culture, around Latin and Arabic, as well as, finally, the ideals of the early modern Enlightenment. From the Hebrew Bible came the beliefs of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, and the ethical framework of modern society. From Greek art and literature came the masterpieces of the Renaissance and beyond.»

So we’ve summed it all up, except that the end of the interglacial era is due soon (inter = parenthesis). After this summary, a few thousand years seems «soon.»

We’ll return to how soon before five minutes are over, but since we live in the Western civilization (and we have a little time), let’s first delve a bit into the history of the Hebrew Bible.

(Let’s remember how it goes: in the interglacial which began 10,000 years ago, civilization arose 5,000 years ago; and Western Civilization arose 2,500 years ago, which is more or less when the Bible was written).

The name of the Jewish people, who wrote it, comes from Judah, the kingdom founded by King David in the mountains of the same name.

Until the destruction of the temple, built by his son Solomon, and the fall of Judah as an independent political entity, at the hands of the Babylonians, only some 350 years passed. It is fascinating to think that Judaism as such did not exist at that time..

The population of the kingdom of Judah was polytheistic! Their religion was Yahwism, which included Jehova in a cult of several other gods of the area. The El of IsraEl was a Canaanite God.

The Hebrew Bible started to be written in exile, in Babylon. It offers a version of the history of the Israelites before and after the foundation of Judah (and the related kingdom, Israel).

In that exile, the beliefs of the scribes were inscribed. They believed that sovereignty had been lost precisely because of the lack of a monotheistic cult. This was finally instituted surrounding the Second Temple, on their return to what was now the Persian province of Judah.

Except for a brief period of independence from the Greeks, sovereignty would not come until 1948. Some historians say that, since the wait for territorial independence was very long, the despair was also very much; and this seems to be captured in the story of Jonah, who worships correctly, but everything goes wrong for him (for starters, he didn’t like living inside a whale).

Christianity arose as a reaction, some say, with a Kingdom of Heaven, to which one ascends after suffering on Earth.

Some of the things related in the Hebrew Bible do not have archaeological or historical support, or not much, or they are flatly denied by evidence, discovered long after I left school. At least by me, although in some cases also recently by archaeologists.

For example, there is no evidence that the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, participated in the building of the pyramids, or spent forty years in the desert. Only that at the time this supposedly happened, the Egyptian dominance of the region suddenly collapsed (due to droughts, it is assumed, among other things). Thus, the Israelites, a group that had seemed insignificant to the Egyptians, and was barely mentioned in their stelae, had a chance to flourish.

It is clear, however, that whatever embellishments were written 700 years later, these people gave rise to the first «Western» monotheistic religion 2,500 years ago. 

It would be fun to find a historical novel describing life in Judah and Classical Greece, which were more or less contemporary. Both were under the umbrella of the Persian Empire at some point.

Now, back to the interglacials. These don’t last that long, though more than twice as the 10,000 years we’ve reviewed here.

Let’s see what a US government website says about this:

«The last four interglacials lasted more than 20,000 years, with the warmest part being a relatively stable period of 10,000 to 15,000 years in duration…data suggest that a similarly long duration should also be inferred for the current interglacial period…data from the period 60,000 to 5,000 years ago indicate that the current interglacial temperature conditions may have persisted for as long as 17,000 years. [Gulp, I would say]. Other authors have suggested that the current interglacial could last tens of thousands of years.»

In other words, we don’t know how much longer the warmth will last, but the question is whether we will make it safely to that point. Our summary is missing one very important detail: in less than 200 years (since the start of the industrial use of hydrocarbons), sapiens has gone from being a function of geology, to becoming a geological force himself. More than cooling, the problem is warming and melting.

This begs repetition: we have gone from being a function of the geology of the Earth, to becoming a geological force ourselves!

It is geology, rather than ecology, that drives the point home: the accelerated melting of ice, which can be seen just by standing in front of glaciers and other ancient ice, in some places like Greenland, means that what is happening in our generation is nothing less than a change in our geological era.

This timely event, will always be part of the five (or six or seven) minute summary of history, whether we are talking about 2,500 years of Western civilization, 5,000 of civilization (for there was also civilization before Judah and Socrates), or 10,000 of the interglacial era called the Holocene, or more. 

Hopefully. For it would mean that there is someone to tell it to.

La Historia del Mundo, en Cinco Minutos

Como la debían enseñar en la escuela; o lo que aprendí en mis viajes por Egipto, Israel y la Antártida

El Homo sapiens, la especie animal que somos, ha sido anatómicamente igual por lo menos por 100,000 años. Pero tratemos de visualizar sólo sus últimos 10,000.

Fue a partir de entonces, redondeando, que terminó la última edad de hielo y comenzó la apertura del paréntesis que nos toca vivir; la Tierra se congela en muchos lugares, hoy habitados por millones de personas, por periodos largos y se descongela por períodos mucho más cortos.

Bueno, qué tal si dividimos en tres períodos el tiempo desde la apertura del paréntesis:

En los primeros cinco mil, el único hominoide que sobrevivió la era glaciar (el sapiens) descubrió las tierras fértiles, que dejó el hielo al retroceder, y la agricultura que era posible en ellas. Dejó de cazar y recolectar.

En los siguientes 2,500 años, desde Creta hasta el Valle del Indo, se formaron las primeras civilizaciones, imperios, religiones más organizadas, y se comenzó a usar la escritura. Todos esos imperios comerciaban entre sí, guerreaban, hacían tratados de paz.

A la entrada del recinto del consejo de seguridad de la ONU se exhibe una copia del texto del primer tratado que se conoce (el de Kadesh).

Es decir, desde ese período somos más o menos los mismos, aunque peleemos otras guerras, tengamos otros dioses, contemos otras leyendas, nuestros países hayan cambiado de nombre, hablemos otros idiomas y tengamos otras tecnologías. Podemos ver que, de todas maneras, desde entonces, nos afligen y alegran exactamente las mismas razones.

Si sólo tienes 5 minutos, luego ve este video de 6, vale mucho la pena. Es fascinante!.

El período más reciente, los últimos 2,500 años, son cuando surgió la civilización occidental. Así la describe una publicación de la universidad de Colorado:

“La civilización occidental se refiere al arte, la literatura, la cultura y las ideas perdurables que se originaron en la cuenca oriental del Mediterráneo en los siglos precedentes a la era cristiana. Esto se desarrolló de innumerables maneras durante la Edad Media y, finalmente, tomó su forma moderna tras el Renacimiento.”

“De la especulación intelectual de los griegos surgió el pensamiento filosófico y científico de nuestra cultura, en torno al latín y el arabe, así como, finalmente, los ideales de la primera Ilustración moderna. De la Biblia hebrea surgieron las creencias del judaísmo, el islam y el cristianismo, y el marco ético de la sociedad moderna. Del arte y la literatura griegos surgieron las obras maestras del Renacimiento y posteriores a éste.»

Bueno, ya resumimos todo. Sólo nos falta nombrar la era geológica que nos toca vivir, el Holoceno, si tan solo porque pronto se va a acabar.

Después de este resumen, unos cuantos miles de años parecen “pronto”. Cuando se termine, áreas habitadas hoy en día por millones de personas quedarán cubiertas por el hielo…. 

Ya volvemos a eso, primero ahondemos  un poquito en la historia de la Biblia hebrea. Después de todo, vivimos en la civilización occidental.

(Time Out. Recordemos cómo está la cosa: en el Holoceno, que comenzó hace 10,000 años, surge la  Civilización hace 5,000; y la occidental hace 2,500, que es, redondeado, cuando se escribió la Biblia.)

El nombre del pueblo judío, que la escribió, proviene de Judea, el reino fundado por el Rey David en las montañas del mismo nombre.

Hasta la destrucción del templo, construido por su hijo Salomón, y la caída de Judea como entidad política independiente, a manos de los babilonios, sólo pasaron 350 años; es fascinante pensar que ahí, el judaísmo como tal no existía.

La población de aquel reino era politeísta! Su religión era el yahwismo, que incluye a Jeova en un culto de varios otros dioses de la zona. El El de IsraEl era un Dios cananeo.

La Biblia hebrea apenas se comenzó a escribir en el exilio, en Babilonia. Ofrece una versión de la historia de los israelitas antes y después de la fundación de Judea (y el reino pariente, Israel).

En aquel exilio se plasmó el pensamiento  de los escribas, que la soberanía se había perdido precisamente por no tener un culto monoteísta. Éste se instituyó, bien a bien, apenas en torno al Segundo Templo, al retorno a lo que ahora era la provincia persa de Judea.

Excepto por un breve periodo de independencia de los griegos, ésta no se recuperaría hasta 1948. Dicen algunos historiadores que, como la espera de la soberanía era muy larga; y la desesperación que se plasma en la historia de Jonás (quien hace todo bien y le sale todo mal), era mucha, surge el cristianismo, con el reino de los cielos, al que se asciende después de sufrir en la Tierra.

Algunas de las cosas relatadas en la Biblia hebrea no tienen sustento arqueológico e histórico, o no mucho, o se ven de plano negadas por la evidencia, descubierta mucho después de que salí de la escuela

(por lo menos por mí, en mi último viaje a la zona, aunque en algunos casos también por los arqueólogos).

Por ejemplo, no existe ninguna evidencia que los israelitas fueron esclavizados en Egipto, hayan participado en la construcción de las pirámides, o pasado cuarenta años en el desierto. Sólo de que en la época que supuestamente sucedió todo eso, la dominancia egipcia de la región colapsó repentinamente (sequías , entre otras cosas); con eso los israelitas, un grupo que a los egipcios les había parecído insignificante, tuvo oportunidad de florecer. Es cierto que, a pesar de los aparentes embellecimientos escritos 700 años después, éste pueblo dio origen a la primera religión monoteísta “occidental”.  

Apenas al regreso de los judíos de Babilonia, tenemos el primer origen reconocible del pensamiento monoteísta moderno, hace 2,500 años, siempre redondeando, contemporáneo con lo que se conoce como la Grecia Clásica, el otro punto de origen del pensamiento occidental.

(Time out: Qué ganas de encontrar una novela histórica, como la de Salvador Madariaga, Corazón de Piedra Verde, pero que describa, en vez de la vida en la antigua Tenochtitlán y en la España de 1492, de esa manera tan vivida y detallada que uno casi siente estar ahí, la vida en Judea y la Grecia clásica, ambas bajo el Imperio persa.)

Ahora, volviendo a nuestro Holoceno. Yo tampoco oí de esta cosa en la escuela, pero si usamos el nombre genérico, se trata de una era interglaciar. Estasno duran tanto, aunque más del doble de los díez mil años que hemos revisado acá.

Veamos qué dice una página web del gobierno de EEUU sobre esto:

“Los últimos cuatro interglaciares duraron más de 20.000 años, siendo la parte más cálida un periodo relativamente estable de 10.000 a 15.000 años de duración… los datos sugieren que también debería inferirse una duración igualmente larga para el actual periodo interglaciar… los datos del periodo de 60.000 a 5.000 años atrás indican que las actuales condiciones de temperatura interglaciar pueden haber persistido ya durante 17.000 años. [Gulp, diría yo]. Otros autores han sugerido que el actual interglacial podría durar decenas de miles de años.”

O sea, no sabemos cuánto más durará el calorcito, pero la pregunta es si llegaremos con bien al cierre de paréntesis. Más que el enfriamiento, el problema es el calentamiento y el derretimiento. Hemos pasado, de huésped de la Tierra, a ser una fuerza geológica en ella.

Yo pensaba que los geólogos hablaban de rocas y siempre comenzaban sus frases con “hace treinta y cinco millones de años.” Por eso me sorprendió saber que los glaciares y hielos ancestrales también son su materia; y que fuera un geólogo, más que un ecólogo, quien tendría mayor impacto en mí al explicar que el Homo sapiens está cambiando la era geológica.  En este momento.

Para repetir: el derretimiento acelerado del hielo, que se puede ver con solo pararse ante los glaciares y otros hielos ancestrales, en algunos sitios como Groenlandia, significa que lo que está sucediendo en nuestra generación es nada menos que un cambio en nuestra era geológica (pero por lo menos ya nos sabemos su nombre.)

Este hecho tan puntual, que comenzó con el uso industrial de hidrocarburos hace menos de 200 años, siempre formará parte del resumen de la historia en cinco (o seis o siete) minutos, ya sea que hablemos de 2,500 años de civilización occidental, de 5,000 de la civilización (pues también la hubo antes de Judea y Sócrates) o de 10,000 de la era interglaciar llamada Holoceno, o más. 

Ojalá. Pues significaría qué hay a quien contarla.

La duda es nuestra mercancía

En 1969, un memorándum interno de la industria tabacalera decía que no era necesario contradecir contundentemente la investigación sobre el lazo entre el cigarrillo y el cáncer. Sería suficiente crear la duda en cuanto a su veracidad. Bastaría con decir que hacía falta mas investigación. “La duda es nuestra moneda,”aseveraba el memorándum.

En última instancia, la evidencia fue tan abrumadora que, hoy en día, en todas partes, las cajetillas de cigarros advierten del claro riesgo de cáncer.

En 1977, antes de que se difundiera de otras fuentes que los hidrocarburos estaban generando un calentamiento global, Exxon, la empresa petrolera, realizó un estudio interno, que preveía la necesidad de hacer “algo” al respecto de la emisión de co2, en el transcurso de 10 años.

Cuarenta y cinco años después, todavía hay quien duda del origen humano del calentamiento global actual, que como quiera ha hecho de tres de los últimos cuatro años, los más plagados de eventos climáticos «extremos» desde que se tiene registro.

La definición de extremo es, curiosamente, en términos monetarios. Son aquellos eventos causantes de daños de más de mil millones de dólares: huracanes, tornados, inundaciones, sequías, incendios, etc., que son más severos al haber más calor en la atmósfera.

No es fácil captar que los cambios en el hielo cerca de los polos Norte y Sur, en los últimos años y décadas, representan un cambio de época geológica que cambiará el contorno de los continentes, y hará que algunas ciudades costeras, en sitios como el Golfo de México, tendrán que ser abandonadas. Por una conjunción de circunstancias, Miami es el mejor ejemplo de esto, pero se sigue construyendo y vendiendo bienes raíces allá.

Cuando se habla de cambios geológicos, tendemos a pensar que siempre ocurren en espacios de miles o de millones de años, pero en la química y la física, como en la geología, pueden haber momentos críticos de transición.

Por ejemplo: el agua puede calentarse gradualmente, pero cuando llega a los 100 grados centígrados, repentinamente cambia de estado. Pasa de ser un líquido a ser un vapor.

Acá estamos usando la misma molecula de H2O, que ahora se está derritiendo, para dar un ejemplo, de cómo algo bastante dramático puede suceder en un momento. No sólo rocas, sino también el hielo, acumulado durante millones de años, es parte fundamental y central de la geología del planeta.

Estamos viviendo un momento doblemente singular, no sólo por la medida cualitativa del cambio geológico que se está dando, sino porque no existe la más mínima duda, razonable, de que, por primera vez, éste cambio de época geológica está siendo causado por la especie dominante en el planeta, los humanos.

Tenemos la capacidad de acumular conocimiento y transmitirlo a las siguientes generaciones, para transformar constantemente la tecnología a nuestra disposición; y eso ha sido, hasta ahora, un arma de doble filo.

La ciencia y la tecnología nos ha llevado a un estándar de vida sin precedentes, a una expectativa de vida elevada, pero también a un desquiciamiento global en el que hay un desequilibrio en la naturaleza, así como en nuestras perspectivas.

Tanto en los ricos como en los pobres, parece haber a menudo una mayor urgencia, si no siempre o primordialmente por el planeta, por sus recursos.

Se mezcla la urgencia por sobrevivir en algunos casos, con una especie de avaricia en otros Hay más enojo y posiciones extremas en la demanda de “libertad”, junto con un aumento de enfermedades mentales «de alto funcionamiento» (es decir, que no se notan mucho) cayadas por un estress silencioso prolongado.

Hay una especie de desesperación subconsciente, como si el mundo se fuera a acabar, que dice “sálvese quien pueda”, o de señalamientos demagógicos de culpabilidad por la desigualdad, fáciles pero ineficaces, que no alivian la situación.

Si recobráramos la cordura, quizá no sería necesario todo eso.

Una vista a la Antártica, a pesar de que sus aristas se derriten (de manera imperceptible para quien no hace un estudio comparativo), todavía es como salir de este mundo, a un paraíso—tanto geográfico, como político, como sensorial.

Claro que el clima es inhóspito, pero en el verano austral se pueden observar desde al mar o en la costa, a un grado sobre cero, paisajes encantados de hielo, sobre imponentes montañas que pueden alcanzar los 3,000 metros, estrepitosamente.

Se ve agua límpida, repleta de fauna, que casi se puede tocar: desde múltiples variedades de ballenas y focas, hasta una diversidad de aves, pasando por colonias de decenas de miles de pingüinos hospitalarios, a través de las cuales uno puede caminar y maravillarse plácidamente.

También se puede uno adentrar en lancha en bahías con una multitud de icebergs esculpidos por el viento y el tiempo, sin que haya dos iguales. Son maravillosa exhibición de arte mágico, natural, con sus singulares formas, texturas y reflejos de luz.

Pero estando por ahí, lo que resulta más sorprendente, e inesperado, si uno acostumbra meditar, es que al cerrar los ojos, se entiende de manera diferente lo que es la «conciencia colectiva».

No como la suma de ideas y conceptos prevalecientes en la sociedad, sino una especie de sopa vibratoria, que es la suma de la calidad de las conciencias individuales, de su EEG, con su coherencia o incoherencia, que crea un entorno casi físico y muy palpable.

En la Antártica, esta conciencia colectiva se nota por su ausencia, como si un ruido, que no sabíamos que estaba presente, cesara.

La experiencia es de un estado de conciencia sin límites; no es algo a lo que se trasciende, sino el estado natural de la conciencia volcada hacia sí misma. No parece pesar, sobre esta, nada que le imponga un límite artificial.

Me pregunto si ese estado de conciencia natural, intocado y tangible, fue, en el fondo, lo que dio origen en 1959, a un tratado entre 12 naciones, inclusive las mayores potencias, ratificado por muchas más en el 2009, para posponer cualquier disputa territorial en Antártica.

Distintas naciones estaban afirmando su soberanía sobre diferentes partes de la región, pero se acordó dejar eso a un lado por ahora; y dejar ese continente, tan grande como Europa o Australia, libre de armamento, mientras siga vigente ese tratado. Necesitará ratificarse nuevamente en el 2059, por otro periodo de 50 años, su vigencia acordada.

Es como si la ausencia de una conciencia colectiva alterada, en ese lugar tan remoto, ha propiciado hasta ahora un comportamiento sensato, que no se ve fácilmente en casi ningún otro sitio del mundo.

No me suscribo, personalmente, a teorías catastrofistas para el mundo. No creo que se vaya a acabar, pero sí me pregunto:

¿Qué crisis será necesaria para sacudirnos, a quienes tenemos nuestra supervivencia más o menos asegurada a corto y mediano plazo, de nuestras preocupaciones actuales, muchas veces miopes o triviales; para recobrar el tipo de cordura que resulte en la voluntad política internacional necesaria para preservar todo el planeta, existir y evolucionar como una humanidad más adulta, equilibrada e integrada?

Acá es necesario hacer mención de otro cambio de época que nos ha tocado vivir. Este es en cuanto a la democracia, un período que se inició a principios del siglo XX, cuando comenzó a aplicarse el sufragio universal. Esta época ha enaltecido la democracia a tal grado, que nadie ha querido estar privado del término.

Hasta Corea del Norte lleva “democrática” en el nombre de su “república”. El término se esgrimía como un valor auto-evidente, pero ya no más, como se ve en el país que hasta hace poco era líder, aunque imperfecto, del ideal democrático, los EEUU. Ahora hay una tendencia anti democrática marcada en la mitad de su población. Lo pasmoso es que es autodestructiva.

No sé si hoy se podrían pasar, con facilidad, leyes para el uso obligatorio de cinturones de seguridad en vehículos, si no existieran ya. ¿Atentaría eso contra “la libertad individual?” El valor de un pacto social forjado por la mayoría de votos está siendo menospreciado.

¿Qué tipo de tecnología nos sacará del atolladero geológico y político, y del desquiciamiento mental, en el que estamos; habrá alguna que depure la conciencia colectiva?

¿Será, el restablecimiento del equilibrio en ése ámbito, un paso indispensable para llegar al meollo común de problemas que parecen aislados?

Antártica Inspira

Feliz 2022

Explorar nuevos mundos y preservar el que tenemos

Antes de desembarcar en la isla de South Georgia, en Antártica, se yuxtaponen, en la extraordinaria vista, enormes laderas, casi verticales, cubiertas de un pasto que parece terciopelo, junto con otras pendientes hechas de roca árida, que brotan del mar y suben estrepitosamente a 3,000 metros de altura.

Sus picos nevados son imponentes, como sería ver los Himalayas desde el mar. De allá arriba bajan anchos glaciares que devuelven hielo al agua. El cielo azul arroja, sobre todo el paisaje, una luz austral platinada.

La isla no tiene mucha más vegetación, ni árbol alguno, pues estos ya no crecen tan al Sur, pero ofrece a la vista y al oído, hasta al tacto del viento, y al olfato, decenas de miles de pingüinos, focas, aves y manatíes, que llenan enormes playas y praderas.

Estas planicies son atravesadas por riachuelos de ensueño; se puede caminar apaciblemente en ellas, paseando por la milagrosa naturaleza de decenas de miles de animales adultos, y de sus tiernas crías, como en un paraíso de ultramundo donde el humano es bienvenido y visto con curiosidad por las criaturas nativas.

El continente de Antártica yace a otros mil km al sur, el que fuera último territorio desconocido de la humanidad, que apenas fue descubierto a principios del siglo XX.

Cincuenta años después, en 1959, cuando yo tenía 5 años, y en medio de la guerra fría entre EEUU y la URSS, una docenas de países (inclusive estos dos) firmaron el Tratado de Antártica, en el que dejan cualquier disputa territorial a un lado, hasta ahora, y acuerdan que antártica permanecerá libre de armamento.

Alegra saber eso. Quizá porque es un área tan frágil, tan prístina, se siente íntima y digna de ser cuidada colectivamente. Pero ese tratado no ha impedido que el hielo de este continente se siga derritiendo, amenazando, más que Groenlandia o el Ártico, las poblaciones y ciudades de las costas del mundo entero.

Seis décadas después de ese tratado, en este 2021 que termina, llegaron a Marte los nombres de millones de personas que atendieron la invitación de la NASA para recibir una tarjeta de abordar impresa para “ir” (o por lo menos sus nombres) a ese planeta. Ya llegaron, en uno de los rovers, que anda excavando allá muestras, las cuales serán enviadas por primera vez a la Tierra en un vehículo que volverá de ahí.

¿Tendrá que parecer, toda la Tierra, igual de frágil que este continente, para que haya la voluntad política de preservarla mediante un tratado similar, que haga de la preservación lo principal y de la competencia lo secundario?

¿O nos bastará, para cuando se cumplan cien años del tratado de Antártica, ya pronto, en el 2059, con la posibilidad, seguramente más palpable, de preservar instancias de vida humana fuera de la Tierra?

¡Feliz 2022!

About mental illness

The failing of America

Symptoms should not be ignored. If 15% of your cells are ill, you could be seriously ill. A UK charity set up to help young people struggling with mental illness reads:

Every day people across the world get up, get dressed and go about their daily lives, completely undetected to be struggling. From the outside they look as if everything is normal…

…High-functioning mental illness is a term to describe those living with an ailment that most people don’t detect. It covers a broad spectrum; they might have a job, be studying, dress well, or even have the ‘perfect’ family lifestyle.

An article from the Canadian Mental Health Association reads,

Psychosis is often described as a “loss of reality” or a “break from reality” because it makes you experience or believe things that aren’t real. In a psychotic episode, a person loses touch with reality as other people see it. They might hear voices, see or feel things that aren’t there, feel paranoid or believe things that don’t rationally make sense.


Intense stress can cause psychosis. In this particular cause, there may be no other conditions or diseases involved. Stress can also trigger symptoms in people who are particularly at risk for psychotic disorders.

15% is how many people in America believe in something called QAnon, an outlandish and ever-evolving conspiracy theory, according to results of a poll published by the New York Times in May.

How many of those people are under intense stress derived from finances, job, health, and or family and have lost a sense of control and pride in their lives?

I’ve had to deal with members of my own family who have had psychotic episodes (unrelated to QAnon).

Once an episode has erupted, you are able to see them differently (ok, they are ill), with more compassion.

But it is very difficult to deal with them while they seem functional. The very term “episode” implies it is a passing thing, right? But even before the first one, they may have felt persecuted or believed in things that aren’t real for a long time.

You may try to deal with them logically, while a complex situation has evolved: they are affecting your life, like an elephant in a china shop, but others around them are in denial of what is going on. They feel the person is the victim and deserves every consideration, that he is causing no harm. And this may be happening while yet others are exploiting their condition.

One helpful breakthrough in my understanding was when I could glimpse that this behavior was the product of intense suffering, which in turn causes an inability to cope with reality.

When someone has decreased capacities of some sort, and is picked on constantly, when they feel diminished and that they can’t prove their worth no matter how hard they try, they may resort to paranoid delusions.

They create an alternate world where things make sense to them. It gives them a sense of control and exempts them from responsibility. To you they may seem like reckless bullies, but they feel they are simply reacting. In this case, to being an unrecognized genius.

This can happen in a family and, it seems, a country.

Quiet desperation, and deep disappointment, with their life in America or elsewhere, may lead some people to embrace a belief that their country is being run by a cabal of cannibal pedophiles, or that vaccines magnetize people and are nothing but a plot, hatched in secret to control them—or, for that matter, that drunken driving or breathing into your face with a virus is their right.

The problem with saying that these people are crazy is that it sounds intolerant. Where do you draw the line between your freedom not to like Joe Biden, or to suspect that big Pharma doesn’t have your back (I happen to believe it doesn’t)—and something crazy?

But not being able to draw the line is crazy in itself.

One need not loose compassion, but what may be lost in this debate is that America has lost its way. It has lost the leadership it had during the so called American Century, because it has lost sufficient cohesiveness within itself—and this is because the leader, at least up until recently, of the Western world, is ill.

The UK and France are doing better eliciting cooperation from the public to fight the current pandemic. There’s simply not the same degree of cohesiveness within the US. That in itself is worrisome. And in a post Trump presidency, the US is embroiled in bitter and open disputes with international allies as well—such as with France, which says the US jumped the gun and formed an alliance with Australia against China. 

China and Russia must be enjoying the spectacle.

All this while climate change, a problem that has to be tackled on a global level, is a real and present danger—and a looming disaster. Joe Biden will make one last attempt for America to lead in this regard. But will he succeed?

In a hundred years, the world may be very different and America may have been relegated to a minor role within it.

It hurts me to see that. I wish it wasn’t the case. Because I’ve enjoyed the freedoms of democracy—they created an environment where I was able to follow my heart and a guru, without being burned at the stake (although I’ve felt the heat). I appreciate a society where there are gay and other minority rights.

But at this point, something other than runaway exploitation of the environment has to emerge as the underlying principle in the world—and quickly. Capitalism and individualism, championed as something good by America once, and embraced by billions, has gotten out of hand.

I have many friends who believe the necessary healing and transformation can still happen quietly, from within society, without much more upheaval than what we’re witnessing already—and I do hope they are right!

My belief, like theirs, is that a higher consciousness is ultimately the answer—and that it is evolving and will evolve inevitably.

It may sound to some that by consciousness, I mean compassionate awareness of others—but it is deeper than that; and a topic for another time.

Mine is an optimistic view, however. Notice I mention a world in a hundred years!

The rebellion and the vaccine

When resistance to anything is a cause worth dying for, it merits more than rolling the eyes. 

The mind of the vaccine hesitant seems unfathomable to many in the mainstream.

Commentator after commentator on CNN, (often medical doctors) say they simply can’t understand those who don’t get the jab in the US. Are those people brainwashed, they ask? Are they unwilling to accept science over religion? Are they victims of political demagoguery that has somehow taken this rejection of masks and vaccines as a symbol?

It may be good not to stop at that list and just carry on with our day. If only because it affects us all. There is indeed something quite unique and un-descifrable about people dying in rejection of the vaccine. It may be more akin to a hunger strike than to an active fight, but what exactly is the fight against?

For at least 6,000 years, God and country have been reasons for people to put themselves in extreme danger, or go to their death. For tribe, probably longer.

But those dying from vaccine rejection are not necessarily religious or nationalistic.

Fighting against oppression, real or perceived, is another reason people put themselves in harms way.

Rejecting the necessity of vaccination as a lie, or as the product of a conspiracy, may be less lunacy, than the languaging of a conscious act of civil disobedience at the heart of a movement.

This pandemic may pass eventually, but it has shown how little a significant number of people care for the dictates of government or profit making science. What we’re witnessing with the Delta variant is basically a breakdown of the efficacy of the government to rule in countries where vaccines are readily available.

Rather than lack of sufficient thought, although that has always been the quality of most followers, there is a substantial ideology driving this movement. Without that, it wouldn’t exist.

Yes, big Pharma may be suppressing other treatments to protect their multi trillion business. Yes, the virus may have come out from a lab, may have even been released nefariously. Yes there may be a lot of misinformation. But none of that explains people’s willingness to remain exposed, especially when 97% of the people presently dying from COVID are unvaccinated according to everyone, from nurses at hospitals, to the CDC, to the governor of California—or after 100’s of millions have been vaccinated for 3-6 months without obvious evidence of major side effects.

The willingness to take risk (or to believe there isn’t a significant one), to search for scarcely applied proof of alternative treatments, or for quite an alternative analysis of the whole situation, may very well end up exposing hidden truths about the pandemic, but it also exposes the power of ideology.

Rebellion may imply a proactive call to arms, not a passive attitude that lands one in the ICU. But a mistrust of the economic powers that make or break governments has been brewing for decades. Emergency aside, “follow the money” may not be too unreasonable a call to understand what’s going on.  

In many circles, and not without reason, big Pharma is perceived as callous and cynical in unnecessarily promoting medicines with side effects, and more medicines to cure those side effects (just take a quick look at the Sadler family and the story of opioids), when a holistic approach would be much more effective, and not only financially sensible, but viable.

For many who have been living with radical hope for change, whether on the holistic movement, or on the gun toting “freedom-above-all” side of things, whatever that means, this is no time to capitulate to all the vaccine signifies to them.

Their a priori position may drive their investigation, and what they are willing to listen to. But isn’t that very much the case with all of us? We all like to think that, in our case at least, reason drives ideology. But does it really? Is it not at least in part the other way around? In The Social Animal David Brooks argues that we follow our gut in choosing a political party or a spouse, and then justify it.

To the antivax, the death of many unvaccinated (and they all know of one), who couldn’t or didn’t stay at home or didn’t know about alternative treatments, or they didn’t work for them, and the unfolding of new variants, may seem like collateral damage of a righteous resistance to a system that is all wrong—and actual proof that it is.

But when a plane fails in mid air, the priority should be to land it, not to crash it, even if that may require using the guidance system developed by the enemy.

El creador

Creer y crear

Arte es creación. Creación es arte.

Quizás un concepto, que ha estado desarrollándose en el siglo XXI, acerca del Creador, sea el del principio creativo en la naturaleza, que nos concede los mismos cinco sentidos a todos los seres humanos, para percibir el mismo arte de la creación.

El arte es una ilusión.
De acuerdo con la antigua cultura védica, el universo, tal como lo percibimos, también es una ilusión. Se entiende que Ishwara (o Shiva) tiene el poder de crearla.

En eso radica precisamente su poder creativo.

Por otra parte, la ciencia moderna, ya nos ve forzados a concebir los cinco sentidos más como intérpretes, que como espejos de UNA “realidad.”

Hoy los cinco sentidos se parecen a la interfaz (una pantalla o visores de realidad virtual, por ejemplo) intérprete de una realidad existente en una programación hecha de ceros y unos, más que a espejos de una realidad última a la que los sentidos están expuestos.

Sin interpretación, esa realidad carecería de significado.

Si vemos una obra de arte, o un colibrí suspendido en el aire frente a una flor, quizá entendemos el propósito de la creación, humana o natural, como expresión del arte intrínseco en el proceso creativo; y nada más. Cómo humanos entendemos nuestro propósito como la búsqueda del que podríamos decir es el placer estético del amor, la felicidad o la plenitud.

Esta búsqueda, que parece, por lo menos inicialmente, estar ligada a nuestra existencia física y, por lo tanto, a nuestro implacable instinto de supervivencia, requiere que NO veamos el infrarrojo ni el ultravioleta, para así poder existir dentro de una banda (¿artificial?) de percepción que nos permite operar.

Hoy en día se pagan 214 dólares por pedazos virtuales de tierra, que nadie haya comprado todavía, de una hectárea de dimensión, en un ámbito de realidad virtual llamado SuperWorldApp.

Pausemos por un momento para ponderar cómo funciona eso en relación a la vida “real.” ¿Percepción de valor es realidad de valor?

El creador puede entenderse como el principio que nos da la ilusión de un mundo compartido con valuaciones que surgen de manera consensuada. Es decir, que puede entenderse como el creador de un holograma de tres dimensiones, que se siente más real que una imagen en dos dimensiones, aunque el simbolismo de una imagen en 2D, trátese de una cara expresiva o un auto, también lo interpretamos perfectamente y nos conmueve o emociona.

¿Y si resulta que las tres dimensiones “reales” en las que vivimos no son tales?

A la física todavía le falta comprobar el principio holográfico del universo, o comprobar si somos vibraciones de un campo unificado que parecen cristalizar el cuerpo humano y el universo en el que éste vive, aunque estos conceptos ya merecen cierto crédito en la comunidad científica.

Mantengámonos sintonizados, tanto para vivir nuestra vida, como para recibir más noticias.