Friday, May 25, 2018

"Introducing ‘Bad Guy’ Theory"

"Introducing ‘Bad Guy’ Theory"
By Bill Bonner

"Nothing much to report from the markets… So we gird our loins, put on our armor, and go into battle. We’re anticipating a fight.

Power corrupts: Has Israel become a ‘bad guy’? we asked yesterday. Iran, the US…Who’s bad and who’s good? Our guess yesterday was that power really does corrupt. And when you have too much of it - a near monopoly on power - you give yourself permission to do things you otherwise wouldn’t do. Because you know you can get away with it.

What prompted this line of thought may have been the news…or indigestion. As for the news, here is Jeremy Scahill, editor of The Intercept: ‘Israel has once again conducted a premeditated, full-scale massacre in broad daylight, in front of the cameras of the world. Once again, it took place in Gaza.

On May 14, Israeli snipers and other forces gunned down more than 60 Palestinians, and wounded thousands of others, including civilians, journalists, and paramedics. Among those killed by Israeli forces was an 8-month-old infant. Her name was Laila al-Ghandour. They also killed at least seven other children and a man in a wheelchair, and that man had lost his legs after they had to be amputated following an earlier Israeli attack.’

‘Bad Guy’ theory: Here at the Diary, we try to connect the dots. There are the bare ‘facts’, which are squirrelly enough. And there are the ideas, myths, and delusions surrounding them. These latter dots, like ball bearings on a sidewalk, are the ones that cause the broken bones.

People think they know, for example, not only what happened, but why it happened. They think they can look into black hearts and see corrupted souls - even from thousands of miles away. They think they know who the real bad guys are. In the case at hand…

The Palestinians were fiends from Hell, said one Diary reader: ‘When faced with a screaming horde of fanatics who want to exterminate your existence, do what it takes. Be glad that Mexico is not dominated by Islamists.’

They had blood dripping from their hands, said another: ‘A significant number of Palestinians killed were unquestionably identified by independent sources as terrorists.’

They were mass murderers, said a third: ‘They intend to kill indiscriminately and create a fifth column within Israel to destroy it.’

In other words, ‘Bad Guy’ theory says they all deserved to die. They - not the Israeli gunmen who shot them down - were the evil ones. No charges were ever filed. No evidence presented. No verdict rendered. And no sentence pronounced. But they got the firing squad anyway. 

That’s the advantage of power. You don’t need to hold a trial. And you never need to say you’re sorry. Because, you’re never the bad guy. Some readers are okay with this. Others are appalled. But look beyond the bare facts. You can see anything you want.

So let’s leave the Holy Land and turn to the question sitting close by, riding shotgun: What about Americans? What does ‘Bad Guy’ Theory tell us about them?

Saints in the mirror: Dear readers will look again beyond the bare facts and into their hearts and minds. Americans will see saints in the mirror and angels dancing on the White House lawn. Foreigners will probably see something else. But what about the accusing dots?

We could look at the bloody conquest of the Philippines at the dawn of the 20th century, for example. US troops took over the Philippines after a fake battle with Spanish forces (the two armies agreed to a mock battle in Manila to justify the handover to Americans rather than to the natives). ‘Hooray,’ said the Filipinos. ‘America is a beacon of independence. Now we will be independent, too.’

America would have its day in the imperial sun. But it was still only early morning and it was already drinking heavily from the cup; power was going to its head. Instead of handing over the Philippines to the Filipinos, the Americans chose to hold onto their colonial prize. Alas, the ungrateful inhabitants resisted. As many as 1.5 million of them died - mostly civilians - from fighting, massacres, concentration camps, and disease.

American soldiers told the tale in their letters home. One wrote to his kin in New York: ‘The town of Titatia was surrendered to us a few days ago, and two companies occupy the same. Last night, one of our boys was found shot and his stomach cut open. Immediately orders were received from General Wheaton to burn the town and kill every native in sight; which was done to a finish. About 1,000 men, women, and children were reported killed. I am probably growing hard-hearted, for I am in my glory when I can sight my gun on some dark skin and pull the trigger.’

Back home, Americans had little doubt who the bad guys were; the natives were ‘terrorists’…They were ‘savages’…The devils were caught up in some unholy cause. But a few had second thoughts. In his diary, Mark Twain referred to American soldiers as ‘our uniformed assassins.’ He described the war as: ‘A long and happy picnic with nothing to do but sit in comfort and fire the Golden Rule into those people down there and imagine letters to write home to the admiring families, and pile glory upon glory.’

Who were the bad guys then? We flip ahead to preview the answer: maybe nobody. People are neither always good nor always bad…but always subject to influence. ‘Bad Guy’ Theory may not help. More to come…

“How to Slow Down Time”

“How to Slow Down Time” 
by David Cain

“As I moved from my twenties to thirties I noticed a certain psychological miscalculation happening more often: a day that feels like it was three or four months ago was actually a year ago. Or I would think back to what I was doing this time last year, then realize that what I’m remembering happened two years ago. Almost everyone says this effect only gets stronger - time seems to speed up as you age, right until you die. Apparently, by the time you’re ninety, you make breakfast, and once you’ve tidied up the dishes it’s mid-afternoon. Then you read a book for a bit, and when you look up it’s dark.

Supposedly, this speeding-up sensation is unavoidable, because it’s linked inextricably to how increasingly small a year is in comparison to your age. To a one-year-old, a year is a lifetime, but to a fifty-year-old, it’s only 2% of a lifetime. This growing disparity makes it feel like time is slipping away ever more quickly.

That’s the popular explanation anyway - the one I heard, and repeated, for years. But it’s pure bunk. It doesn’t make any sense when you think about it. How long an hour, a week, or a year feels is something that changes all the time. Five days spent traveling in a foreign country tends to feel much longer than a regular workweek. An hour spent coping with tragic news can feel deadeningly slow, while an hour of frantic cleaning before guests arrive slips away like draining bathwater. 

Our perception of time is psychological and subjective. There’s no reason to assume it’s tied to how long ago we were born. My three-hour flight seemed quick because I was somehow continually comparing it to my entire life? What? Did it feel the the same length to all 37 year-old passengers? Total bunk.

Time does seem to go by much more quickly in adulthood than it did in childhood though, and that seems pretty universal. As a kid, ninety-minute car rides were excruciatingly long, a week was a rich and varied chapter of life, and a year- the distance between birthdays - was an ocean of time.

So what causes this difference, and why do so many people feel like time is gradually speeding up? It’s probably a combination of things.

Why early years seem longer: As we become adults, we tend to take on more time commitments. We need to work, maintain a household, and fulfill obligations to others. Children usually have no time commitments, or if they do, they don’t need to think about them much - someone tells you when it’s time for chores or swimming lessons.

Because these commitments are so important to manage, adult life is characterized by thoughts and worries about time. For us, time always feels limited and scarce, whereas for children, who are busy experiencing life, it’s mostly an abstract thing grownups are always fretting about. There’s nothing we grownups think about more than time - how things are going to go, could go, or did go.

Our early years also seem longer because they contain so many firsts - first thunderstorm, first swim in the ocean, first kiss, first car, first real job - each of which makes the year in which it happened seem more significant to the overall arc of life, creating a strong sense of progress and time well used.

Compare that to the life of a middle-aged adult, which is much more governed by routine and repetition. Day after day, the same tasks are performed, the same roles embodied, the same forms of entertainment enjoyed. At mid-life, chances are you make new friends much less frequently, you move much less often, and you try things for the first time only rarely.

This is very normal. As your career and domestic life stabilize, the years increasingly resemble each other - except, of course, for the age number itself, which ticks over every 365 days just the same as always. This creates the sense that less “living” happens each year, and that there’s more and more you’ll never get around to.

On top of all this, some scientists also say that children simply form higher-quality memories - ones that are sharper and more lasting - than adults do. Certain memory-related receptors in the brain decline with age, making early years seem that much more dense with experience and meaning than recent ones.

So don’t worry. You’re not accelerating towards your grave. It’s just a series of compounding illusions that tend to happen when we habitually ruminate about time. And there are things we can do to see through those illusions.

Lengthening our years by deepening our days: Recently, on a friend’s birthday we had the usual conversation thirty-somethings have about time flying by. I think I said I couldn’t believe I’d lived in my current neighborhood for a year already. But when I thought about it later, it doesn’t seem like the time flew by. I’m just used to saying that. This past year really felt like a year.

In fact, I’d say the same about the previous year, and that points to the main reason time seems to have slowed down for me: meditation. Over the past two years I’ve greatly deepened my meditation practice. Much more of my life is spent with my attention on present moment experience, and much less is spent projecting, analyzing, rehearsing and reliving things in my head. This reinvestment of attention in present moment experience really makes time seem to slow down - and that provides a compelling clue about what causes it to speed up.

Adults tend to operate much more on autopilot: performing the super-familiar tasks of domestic life while most of their attention is on some past, future, or hypothetical moment. As children we’re immersed, quite helplessly, in present moment experience, which creates long, vivid days, with many more touchpoints for memory and appreciation.

Mindfulness, one of the qualities developed in meditation, begins to shift the balance back, effectively lengthening our lives by deepening our days and years. The more life is weighted towards attending to present moment experience, the more abundant time seems. Ordinary life becomes richer and more novel, much like childhood, except that you retain all your adult wisdom. Tiny experiences such as hanging up a coat or getting into your car, can feel quite fulfilling and complete in themselves, because you don’t feel like you need to be somewhere else already.

It is possible to fulfill your adult time commitments with your attention on the experience itself - of working, driving, cleaning, whatever it is. If you make a practice of that, much less of your life will be spent glossing over present-moment experience with compulsive thinking about what’s happening later.

I’m always wary about slipping into meditation evangelism whenever it comes up - you’re probably already either sold on it, or sold on not doing it. But you don’t need to meditate in order to slow down time. You just need to invest more attention in present-moment experience, one way or another. Two simple ways to do this:

Do more physical activities, ones that you can’t do absent-mindedly: arts and crafts, sports, gardening, dancing
Spend more time with people you enjoy talking to

Both are memorable and rewarding, and require too much ongoing attention for your mind to slip into rumination. A year spent focusing on things you can’t do absent-mindedly is a long, memorable year that can’t slip by unnoticed.

It’s only when we’re fretting about the future or reminiscing over the past that life seems too short, too fast, too out of control. When your attention is invested in present-moment experience, there is always exactly enough time. Every experience fits perfectly into its moment. Make a motto of it: 'chop wood, carry water, be a friend.'"
"Time, Life, and the Roller Coaster"
by CoyotePrime

Remember when you were 10 years old, and summer felt like it lasted forever? Got a little older, not so bad, still plenty of time to do everything you wanted. Someone told me back then that time speeds up the older you get. Being young, and knowing everything as the young do, I of course ridiculed this idea. But guess what- it’s true. Now I view life, and time, as a roller coaster with just one enormous riser. At the beginning time feels very slow, but as you climb towards the top time seems to speed up. At 30 or so you’re at the very top, then you start the fall towards the bottom. Faster and faster you go, as time goes by ever quicker. Weeks and months flash by, and you wonder where it all went, and as you descend ever faster you realize that somewhere on the tracks below there’s a solid brick wall or some other disaster awaiting your arrival. The only thing you don’t know is where on the tracks ahead of you it is. So, appreciate even more the things you can enjoy, and the people whom you love and that love you, because the ride isn’t going to last forever...

"Where Does One Go..."

"Where does one go from a world of insanity? 
Somewhere on the other side of despair."
    - T.S. Eliot

Greg Hunter, "Weekly News Wrap-Up 5/25/18"

"Weekly News Wrap-Up 5/25/18"
By Greg Hunter’s 

"Trump canceled the June 12th summit with Kim Jung Un, and the North Korean leader is back within hours wanting to continue the talks. What gives? Why so crazy? North Korea is China’s crown jewel of crazy, and it is not going to give that up without getting major concessions from Trump on trade and the South China Sea. Anyone thinking the U.S. is negotiating with North Korea is nuts. The U.S., in reality, is in negotiations with China, and that is why this is going to be drawn out.

It’s now called “Spygate,” and it makes Watergate look like a water balloon fight. This is the biggest scandal in U.S. history. The Obama Administration tried to frame Donald Trump for conspiring with the Russians and used every dirty trick in the book to try to take him down, including the use of spies in his campaign. People are going to be jailed over this one, and I mean top people. This is treason against the Constitution and our elections.

Is the economy really doing that well? Lots of data says parts of the economy are NOT doing well at all.  Is the Fed going to raise interest rates? Is the Fed going to be forced to bring back easy money and reverse course to save a faltering economy just before the midterms?"

"Join Greg Hunter as he talks about these stories and more in the Weekly News Wrap-Up."

Musical Interlude: Jefferson Airplane, "White Rabbit”

Jefferson Airplane, "White Rabbit”

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Musical Interlude: Chuck Wild, Liquid Mind, “Dream Ten”

Chuck Wild, Liquid Mind, “Dream Ten” 

"A Look to the Heavens"

"What's happening in the Statue of Liberty nebula? Bright stars and interesting molecules are forming and being liberated. The complex nebula resides in the star forming region called RCW 57. This image showcases dense knots of dark interstellar dust, bright stars that have formed in the past few million years, fields of glowing hydrogen gas ionized by these stars, and great loops of gas expelled by dying stars. 
Click image for larger size.
A detailed study of NGC 3576, also known as NGC 3582 and NGC 3584, uncovered at least 33 massive stars in the end stages of formation, and the clear presence of the complex carbon molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are thought to be created in the cooling gas of star forming regions, and their development in the Sun's formation nebula five billion years ago may have been an important step in the development of life on Earth. The featured image was taken at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.”

"On Your Own Terms..."

"If the sun is shining, stand in it- yes, yes, yes. Happy times are great, but happy times pass- they have to- because time passes. The pursuit of happiness is more elusive; it is life-long, and it is not goal-centered. What you are pursuing is meaning- a meaningful life... There are times when it will go so wrong that you will be barely alive, and times when you realize that being barely alive, on your own terms, is better than living a bloated half-life on someone else's terms."
- Jeanette Winterson

"Heaven And Hell"

"A belligerent samurai, an old Japanese tale goes, once challenged a Zen master to explain the concept of heaven and hell. The monk replied with scorn, "You're nothing but a lout- I can't waste my time with the likes of you!" His very honor attacked, the samurai flew into a rage and, pulling his sword from its scabbard, yelled "I could kill you for your impertinence." "That,"the monk calmly replied, "is hell." Startled at seeing the truth in what the master pointed out about the fury that had him in its grip, the samurai calmed down, sheathed his sword, and bowed, thanking the monk for the insight. "And that," said the monk "is heaven." The sudden awakening of the samurai to his own agitated state illustrates the crucial difference between being caught up in a feeling and becoming aware that you are being swept away by it. Socrates's injunction "Know thyself" speaks to the keystone of emotional intelligence: awareness of one's own feelings as they occur."
- Daniel Goleman

Chet Raymo, "As Time Goes By"

 "As Time Goes By"
by Chet Raymo

"Is time something that is defined by the ticking of a cosmic clock, God's wristwatch say? Time doesn't exist except for the current tick. The past is irretrievably gone. The future does not yet exist. Consciousness is awareness of a moment. Or is time a dimension like space? We move through time as we move through space. The past is still there; we're just not there anymore. The future exists; we'll get there. We experience time as we experience space, say, by looking out the window of a moving train. Or is time…

Physicists and philosophers have been debating these questions since the pre-Socratics. Plato. Newton. Einstein. Most recently, Lee Smolin. Without resolution. What makes the question so difficult, it seems to me, is that time is inextricably tied up with consciousness. We won't understand time until we understand consciousness, and vice versa. So far, consciousness is a mystery, in spite of books with titles like "Consciousness Explained". Will consciousness be explained? Can consciousness be explained? If so, will it require a conceptual breakthrough of revolutionary proportions? Or is the Darwinian/material paradigm enough? Are we in for an insight, or for a surprise?

As I sit here at my desk under the hill, looking out at a vast panorama of earth, sea and sky, filled, it would seem, infinitely full of detail, so full that my awareness can only skim the surface, I have that uneasy sense that it's going to be damnably difficult to extract consciousness, as a thing, from the universe in its totality. I think of that word "entanglement," from quantum theory, and I wonder to what extent consciousness is entangled, perhaps even with past and future.

Who knows? Perhaps consciousness, or what I think of as my consciousness, is just a slice of cosmic consciousness, in the same way that the present is a slice of cosmic time. As a good Ockhamist, I am loathe to needlessly multiply hypotheses. But time will tell. Or consciousness will tell. Or something.”

"I Promise You This..."

"One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am- a reluctant enthusiast... a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards!"
- Edward Abbey

Free Download: T.S. Eliot, “The Four Quartets”

“You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
       You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstacy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
       You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
       You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
       You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.”

- T.S. Eliot, “The Four Quartets”, “East Coker III”

Freely download “The Four Quartets”, by T.S. Eliot, here:

"The Cloak Of The Past..."

“The cloak of the past is cut from patches of feeling, and sewn with rebus threads. Most of the time, the best we can do is wrap it around ourselves for comfort or drag it behind us as we struggle to go on. But everything has its cause and its meaning. Every life, every love, every action and feeling and thought has its reason and significance: its beginning, and the part it plays in the end. Sometimes, we do see. Sometimes, we see the past so clearly, and read the legend of its parts with such acuity, that every stitch of time reveals its purpose, and a kind of message is enfolded in it. Nothing in any life, no matter how well or poorly lived, is wiser than failure or clearer than sorrow. And in the tiny, precious wisdom that they give to us, even those dread and hated enemies, suffering and failure, have their reason and their right to be.”
- Gregory David Roberts, “Shantaram”

"Internet Sacred Text Archive"

"About Sacred-Texts"

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- Max Müller, Introduction to the Upanishads Vol. II.

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Fascinating, an absolute treasure trove! Enjoy!

"Memory, Meanings, Moments and Madness: Wanderers In No Man's Land"

"Memory, Meanings, Moments and Madness:
Wanderers In No Man's Land"
by Chris Floyd

"Zachary Mason's remarkable novel, "The Lost Books of the Odyssey," is based on a grain of fact. Before the stories of the Iliad and the Odyssey were crystallized and canonized in the books of Homer sometime in the 8th century B.C., various (and often conflicting) tales of the Trojan War and its heroes had floated around in various forms for hundreds of years. Some of these variants survive in fragments of other ancient works, like ghostly echoes of alternative universes. Mason's intriguing fictional conceit is that he is translating one of these: a "pre-Ptolemaic papyrus excavated from the desiccated rubbish mounds of Oxyrhynchus" which "contains forty-four concise variations on Odysseus's story." And that is what he proceeds to offer us: 44 chapters, 44 alternative (and conflicting) universes, where some tale of Odysseus - or, occasionally, the whole arc of his life - is presented in sharply etched, psychologically penetrating modern prose. (No faux-epic stylizations.) Sometimes there are gods and magic; sometimes Odysseus lives in a world of the grimmest realism.

It's not my intention here to give a literary review of the book. I just wanted to highlight two passages which seem to me to have some particular relevance for our current political situation. Both come from a chapter called "The Iliad of Odysseus." This is the longest chapter in the book, and one of the most "realistic." As Odysseus puts it toward the end of the section: "There are, as far as I have seen, and I have seen much, no gods, no spirits and no such thing as witches, but I seem to be the only one who knows it."

In this chapter, Odysseus begins as a rather soft, dreamy young prince, more given to the songs and stories of the bards than to the role of warrior-king for which his father is rigorously - and violently - molding him. In time, the young man learns to fake his way through the role, and when Agamemnon comes calling for troops to take to Troy, Odysseus is given command of Ithaca's armies. An attempt to get out of the war by faking an epileptic fit fails; instead of being rejected as sickly, Odysseus is now considered touched by the gods. In any case, he goes to war. He avoids combat whenever he can, without losing face, often by following in the wake of the berserking Achilles, and picking off his wounded victims. Achilles is killed after five years, and Odysseus, desperate to end the war, bribes a maid to kill Helen of Troy, in the hope that scotching the cause of the war will bring it to a close. It doesn't; a massive battle ensues in which both sides are almost completely destroyed, Troy is sacked, and only a few Greeks manage to slink away in their boats.

But Odysseus has already walked away in the midst of the battle, and begins wandering down the Ionian coast. He takes on the persona of a bard, singing for his supper. He is skillful, becomes popular, well-paid - and begins to incorporate tales of the Trojan War into his repertoire: fanciful stories filled with the gods and spirits that he has never seen, with many passages celebrating the great cunning and courage of the warrior Odysseus. After 10 years of enriching himself, he goes home, is greeted with amazement and celebration - which he finds tedious: "I just wanted it to end so I could spend my remaining years with sword and harp on the wall, making loans at high interest and fathering sons." The first relevant passage comes early in the chapter, when young Odysseus is still hoping to become a bard, only to be slapped down by his father, who scorned such a lowly fate for his son, insisting instead that he become a warrior: "My father and his men would say things like, 'We are here to live the stories, not compose them!' Sing, Muses, of the wrath of god-like shit-for-brains, hereditary lord of the mighty Coprophagoi, who skewered a number of other men with his pig-sticker and valued himself highly for so doing. (In a handy footnote, Mason reminds us that "Coprophagoi" means "excrement eaters.")

Here we have the essential foundations of militarism, which, along with greed and fearmongering, has become the organizing principle of modern American society. (And innumerable other societies since the days of Troy.) Another passage in the chapter speaks to the guiding mindset of our ruling elites, and their forbears down through the ages: "Many times I was on the verge of just leaving and sailing back to Ithaca. I did not flee only because I would have lost all face with my father and our subjects. As Father and I know, and as we try not to remind them, there is no good reason for our subjects to pay their taxes, row our ships, fight our battles or tip their caps to us other than tradition and the threat of violence (which is implicit, nicely civilized and glossed over in the older, better families like mine). Much as I loathed the war, there was at least the prospect of a tolerable life afterward ... I would rather have died than come down in the world."

And here we have our elites in a nutshell. Their power and privilege - though real enough in their deadly application- are, at their core, empty shams, and entirely illegitimate. Arthur Silber* wrote eloquently on this theme just a few days ago, in a piece outlining the need - and great effectiveness - of non-violent non-cooperation with evil. You should read the whole piece, and follow the links, to get the full scope of the piece, but here is an excerpt: "It is only the slavish obedience to authority, the reluctance and refusal to break the goddamned rules and "cause trouble," that makes the elites and their hold on power possible. Take away that obedience, take away the refusal to deny the legitimacy of the ruling elites and their demands that all the rest of us support them in their rule, and they have nothing. The elites know that; most Americans don't ...

The ruling class is corrupt, immoral, deadly, and entirely illegitimate. Their greatest fear is that you will realize it. My statement that the ruling class has "nothing" if and when a critical number of people refuse to obey (i.e., when they choose non-cooperation) doesn't contradict my observations concerning the weapons our rulers could use against those who don't obey. The "nothing" refers to the ultimate foundation of the elites' power; the weapons they possess represent only one aspect of the day-to-day operations of that power, as terrible as that particular aspect is. And it cannot be overemphasized that peaceful non-cooperation can be enormously effective against even the most vicious of totalitarian regimes. The power of "No" is far, far greater than most people ever permit themselves to understand."

Of course, the matrix of myth, legend and history from which the stories of Odysseus arose has much deeper resonance than the political exigencies - now lost to us forever - surrounding the Trojan War. Even at a remove of thousands of years, these tales are still imbued with numinous power, conveying and representing a heightened awareness of many aspects of human reality, states of being by which we are seized, or enlightened, or harrowed, or destroyed, as the ancient heroes were possessed and guided, and often ruined, by the gods.

Odysseus is one of the best representatives of human consciousness, that strange spirit of knowing and confusion that arises from the ever-churning matrix of biological and neurological activity that makes up our physical being. Odysseus the wanderer is a man of many identities, a man of deception and self-deception, of keen insight and rash impulse. Perhaps the most telling of his false personae is the one he used in talking and scheming his way past the Cyclops. My name, he tells the giant, is Nobody (or No Man). He hopes by this to forestall any revenge for blinding the creature, who, when asked who has wounded him so grievously, can only cry, "Nobody! Nobody did this to me!"

Here Odysseus is true to his role as an avatar of consciousness - both in his attempt to escape responsibility for his actions, and, inadvertently, in revealing the empty core at the center of that furiously firing neurological matrix. Who are you, really? Are you Odysseus, a king, a warrior, an ally, a husband, a son, a wanderer, a killer, a hero? Lay each torn scrap of defining - and reductive - identity aside, or have them torn from you by fate, and who are you? "I am Nobody," says the man; I am just this "I am," making himself up as he goes along, in a world of chaos and danger, with the eternal night of death looming at every turn.

All share this condition; there are no elites. No amount of power or privilege can lift you above it, or above another single living soul. We are all wanderers, bound in a universal union of separateness, made bearable and given meaning only by the moments, the numinous moments - of genuine connection with our fellow wanderers (each locked in the mystery of their own unique, ever-shifting coalescence of neural networks, hormonal flows, memory and perception), of insights and flashes of awareness into some aspect of reality that seize us (through nature, art, books, thought and many other venues) and carry us, for a moment, into a higher, deeper apprehension of being.

As Odysseus learned, you cannot force the gods to give you these moments, you can't call them forth at will. But you can stand ready for them, you can try to stay open to them, to recognize them when they come, and feel their quickening power. And you can strive to make the networks of association that we wanderers form, on large scales and small, to be more conducive to these connections, to foster their occurrence and their recognition, to remember and honor them, and pass on their good effects - to enhance whatever good that has emerged from the countless millennia of breakage and mutation that have molded, so imperfectly, our human kind.

But we live today in networks given over to death and domination - rapacious, aggressive, degraded and degrading. Networks which actively, at times gleefully destroy the moments of connection and awareness, and instead seek to impose ever-more reductive and false definitions of reality, which then must be defended with manic ferocity against the mysterious flows and eruptions of being. We are now hurtling a thousand miles an hour in the wrong direction, deeper into death and degradation, which are no longer resisted, or lamented, or regretted, or even debated, but embraced and celebrated, in a sickening inversion of the "civilized values" that our degraded, militarist-corporatist system purports to defend.

Like Mason's Odysseus, we live in an age where murderous pig-stickers and corporate Coprophagoi demand that we tip our caps to them, sing songs of their goodness and glory, and praise the hideous system they have made. For generations now, we have taught our children that this is the way the world should be, this is the only form of reality - this crabbed, cruel, diminished, hollowed-out travesty.

The power of "No" that Silber speaks of is the most positive, productive response you can make to such insanity. Saying no to cooperation with evil, in whatever form it takes, on whatever scale - including the scale of our own chaotic, wandering, mysterious psyches. What we need, desperately, is more and more of the power of No - and the determination in live in - and live for - those moments of connection and awareness that the free flow of being can provide."