“Dig In.”

Posted on 20141224

But indeed, it is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanates from the old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.

(Robert Louis Stevenson).

Nature . . . is the wheel that drives our world; those who ride it willingly might yet catch a glimpse of a dazzling, even a spiritual restfulness, while those who . . . insist that the world must be piloted by man for his own benefit will be gathering dust but no joy.

(Mary Oliver).

Wilderness can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.

(Wallace Stegner)


In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.

(Baba Dioum).

Find your place on the planet, dig in, and take responsibility from there.

(Gary Snyder).

Those who contemplate the beauty of earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.

(Rachel Carson).


“Today is the day, and this is the hour.”

Posted on 20141114


I am fundraising for the Climate Mobilization. Any support would be much appreciated.

I have long puzzled how it is that the heartbreaking and near-terrifying nature of our ecological crisis is treated casually by and large, when not completely neglected or ignored by a generally sleepwalking populace.

A planetary crisis embraces everything from the personal and social to worldwide, but in spite of an occasional flurry of lip service and “let’s pretends” concerning the avalanche of disasters we are perpetrating, most of our gestures (a bit of recycling, a bit less driving, turning down the heat or AC, sending a check to the Sierra Club) seem to serve only to relieve our guilty conscience or mask our growing feeling of impotence. Nothing much is happening, at any rate, to halt our downward plunge.

Perhaps our tendency to screen out and play ostrich is because the rape of our Earth is simply too huge and awful a predicament, encompassing forces far beyond our personal control (and, it seems with a bit of reflection, everyone else’s, since no one is in control).

[O]ur current crisis has a history spanning thousands of years. We but echo forces of thought long since put into motion, woven into our very neural processes of brain.

An inherited cultural mind-set building over millennia lies behind our ever increasing acts of violence to our Earth—and one another.

We are so wrapped up in our personal pursuits, simply “getting by,” or “making it” in the world, that it’s hard to step back and consider the consequences of ordinary daily actions unconsciously accepted as the norm.

Why read such stuff, you might ask, if the situation is as grim as the experts claim? Why not eat, drink, and be merry, gathering the few rosebuds we may, since tomorrow . . . ? You should read on because a citizenry informed by superficial three-minute sound bites at best responds superficially.

Books on the coming ecological collapse are appearing at an increasing rate, of course, while scientific groups plead with governments, industries, and consumers to heed the signs. All to absolutely no avail. Many of us addressing critical issues of the day preach only to the converted (no one else listens) while the great machine, now grown to the status of “global economy,” plunges faster toward a precipice.

A new viewpoint, a new way of looking, seeing, and presenting the garish facts that should be so self-evident, has long been called for, as a practical way of responding effectively has long been needed. And this is precisely what Thom Hartmann presents here: he makes clear how the impoverishment and decline of the human spirit is at the root of our disease, that these roots are hardly new, but have grown for millennia, and that only a new cultural image of ourselves and life itself will bail us out. We hear ad nauseam of “the new paradigm” emerging in the sciences, but a rediscovery of a very ancient paradigm, that of the sacredness of everyday life, the sanctity of every life-form, of our living Earth, ourselves and each other, alone can turn the tide. And we are not going to be given this image via television or the Internet.

So the last part of this book is not just a call for personal responsibility, a rather vague abstraction, but offers a powerful and articulate “prescription for behavior” even the least of us can follow, both to discover within us this ancient but ever-new image of life, and live that image out. Here is a call for action any and all of us can undertake, to our own personal enrichment, spiritual awakening or renewal, and peace of mind, as well as restoration of our planet.

Surely we grow tired of “wake-up calls” to action, but this is one we ignore to the peril of ourselves, our children and their children, and this beautiful Earth given to our charge. I thought, on reading Jerry Mander’s masterpiece In the Absence of the Sacred, which pointed in the same direction Hartmann takes, that I was informed on the ecological issue, but my eyes were opened to new perspectives in The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight.

And don’t rest on your virtuous laurels with a couple of benevolent gestures (as I tend to do). Keep it up—the deterioration we have helped spin ever faster will not readily abate. Huge forces are in motion. Huge commitment is called for.

On hearing of the slaughter of elephants in Africa, my then-11-year-old daughter, newly possessed of that straightforward and clear logic of the young, and so unable to grasp the murderous irrationality of adults, paced the floor weeping and crying out, “How can they do that? How?”—then turned, pointed to me, and admonished: “And you just sit there!”

What could I say, when I could have done something, but knew not of the means. The following pages, after remarkable insights into the nature of the ills befalling us, offers as even more remarkable means, an outline for concrete action of an unusual and unexpected sort. And even I, here in my seventh decade toward wherever, can do something indeed, as can you. So, as my daughter would say: “Don’t just sit there, do something!” Promote this book and live its message. Now. Today is the day, and this is the hour.

(Joseph Chilton Pearce, Forward to Thom Hartmann’s The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight).


Posted on 20141109

team pursuit 2012

The board was covered in numbers, at the top left the biggest one was ‘3.49.999’, with a red box around it. ‘That’s the target time. We decided back in 2008 that winning in London was going to need a time below 3’50”. So having decided that, we worked out what it would take to do it. You need the first half-lap in 12.5 seconds. Then consistent 14-second laps. To do that, the man on the front, if he’s an 80kg rider with a drag factor of 0.23, needs 686w at 130rpm on a 110-inch gear.’ The board then showed the exact power required for the second, third and fourth riders to sit in the slipstream. Man two and man three needed about a third less power than man one. For man four, on the back, the power was actually a little higher than for the two riders ahead, because when you ride very close together at very high speeds you get a slight benefit from having someone behind you, who effectively reduces the size of your wake.

The board had more numbers, this time about the changes, when man one peels off and drops to the back. ‘We’ve changed the way we ride the event. We’ve gone from man one doing one and a quarter laps off the start to one and three-quarters. That hurts, but it protects the three other guys. Man two does two laps, man three does one and a half, man four does one and a half. The four riders aren’t equal, so we have to burn them at different rates, and we need lap-and-a-halfs to let man one recover from the start.

‘We’ve cut down from traditional one-lap efforts, because the extra half for each increases the amount of recovery time in the string – instead of three laps they get four and a half. That’s an extra 21 seconds of recovery for an extra seven seconds of effort. Also, every change costs a tenth of a second, because you lose a bike length when the front rider drops to the back. So we gain six-tenths by having six changes fewer overall.’ He knew the power numbers the riders would need to do to get six-tenths back by riding faster but changing more often, he knew the lab-test results for all the riders in terms of what they can sustain for how long and how often, he had run the various options on the track, and, for this particular quartet of riders, this was the optimum strategy. ‘We’ve got a database of every single half-lap the guys have ridden as a team, every single delivery, in races or in training, since 2008,’ Hunt said. ‘It’s vast, it’s macro’d, and we use it all the time, for feeding back to the riders, for selection. I could show you hours and hours of video of changes, guys crossing the same spot on the same boards every single time, and, critically, how the changes are affected by fatigue. High-performance coaching in the modern era has an awful lot do to with managing and navigating around huge databases of information. It’s not about a pen and a pad any more.’

When I interviewed Shane Sutton, the head coach of the GB team for London 2012, he said simply, ‘I’m trying to win medals, to get the funding, to make sure all these people have a bloody job next year.’ He gestured round an office full of team staff. ‘It’s the system that has to win.’

It’s not really the gains that are marginal – some will be small, but some will be big. It’s where you go looking that’s marginal, peering into every nook and cranny of cycling.

(Michael Hutchinson, Faster).

The Interview

Posted on 20141025


“I have been told,” the merchant began, “that you were a Brahman, a learned man, but that you seek to be in the service of a merchant. Might you have become destitute, Brahman, so that you seek to serve?”

“No,” said Siddhartha, “I have not become destitute and have never been destitute. You should know that I’m coming from the Samanas, with whom I have lived for a long time.”

“If you’re coming from the Samanas, how could you be anything but destitute? Aren’t the Samanas entirely without possessions?”

“I am without possessions,” said Siddhartha, “if this is what you mean. Surely, I am without possessions. But I am so voluntarily, and therefore I am not destitute.”

“But what are you planning to live off, being without possessions?”

“I haven’t thought of this yet, sir. For more than three years, I have been without possessions, and have never thought about of what I should live.”

“So you’ve lived off the possessions of others.”

“Presumably this is how it is. After all, a merchant also lives off what other people own.”

“Well said. But he wouldn’t take anything from another person for nothing; he would give his merchandise in return.”

“So it seems to be indeed. Everyone takes, everyone gives, such is life.”

“But if you don’t mind me asking: being without possessions, what would you like to give?”

“Everyone gives what he has. The warrior gives strength, the merchant gives merchandise, the teacher teachings, the farmer rice, the fisher fish.”

“Yes indeed. And what is it now what you’ve got to give? What is it that you’ve learned, what are you able to do?”

“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”

“That’s everything?”

“I believe, that’s everything!”

“And what’s the use of that? For example, the fasting– what is it good for?”

“It is very good, sir. When a person has nothing to eat, fasting is the smartest thing he could do. When, for example, Siddhartha hadn’t learned to fast, he would have to accept any kind of service before this day is up, whether it may be with you or wherever, because hunger would force him to do so. But like this, Siddhartha can wait calmly, he knows no impatience, he knows no emergency, for a long time he can allow hunger to besiege him and can laugh about it. This, sir, is what fasting is good for.”

“You’re right, Samana. Wait for a moment.”

Kamaswami left the room and returned with a scroll, which he handed to his guest while asking: “Can you read this?”

Siddhartha looked at the scroll, on which a sales-contract had been written down, and began to read out its contents.

“Excellent,” said Kamaswami.

“And would you write something for me on this piece of paper?”

He handed him a piece of paper and a pen, and Siddhartha wrote and returned the paper.

Kamaswami read: “Writing is good, thinking is better. Being smart is good, being patient is better.”

(Herman Hesse, Siddhartha).


Posted on 20140923


There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.

(George Gordon Byron).

What does it take to win the Tour de France?

Posted on 20140906


Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches for the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all.

(Ecclesiastes 9:11).

Vincenzo Nibali won this year’s Tour de France.

I was happy that he won the race. If riding was my life, I would aspire to race like Nibali– a complete rider.

Cycling, as a sport, is often reduced to numbers. The courses are measured in distance, altitude and elevation gains, grades. The equipment changes depending on the nature of the course, so discussion of gearing, tire pressure, and equipment aerodynamics and weight is prominent. Finally, there are the engines– measurements of the riders’ physiological ability: weight, power output, VAM, VO2max, efficiency.

The numbers, of course, are important. The terrain of the course not only determines the equipment used to race it, but typically also what type of rider will win it. For example, a muscular sprinter with a high short-term power output will usually prevail on a flat course. If the course features high mountains, gravity ensures that a leaner, lighter rider will be first across the line.

To win the Tour you have to find a racer whose parents have passed on the genetic qualities to win the Tour de France. You don’t win the Tour because you have decided to win it, you don’t win the Tour because you have trained better than the others. You win the Tour de France because you have the physical and biological qualities required.

(Cyrille Guimard, inCycle UCI: Bastille Day).

But the numbers are not everything. The field for the Tour de France is close to 200 riders. To avoid crashing, a cyclist must be adept at cycling in a group. The course may present rough roads, and the mountains are descended fast, so skilled handling of the bike is also necessary. Then there is the weather– rain demands better bike handling; hours in the heat, wet, or cold require psychological toughness. Finally, drafting and the presence of teams means that strategy, tactics, and the ability to read a race can be employed to win over even physiologically stronger rivals.

What I like about Nibali, as a racer, is the fact that he has mastered the non-numerical aspects of racing– the art of the sport. He is a great descender, shines in miserable weather conditions, and is astute, tactically brilliant– and sometimes even daring– on the bike. Off the bike, he is a good sportsman– polite, respectful of his competitors, openly grateful for his team and support. He’s described by those close to him as someone who is reserved, even sensitive. That’s a personality I have more affinity for than the braggarts and playboys of other sports.

But the moral of this year’s Tour, for me, was something else. Nibali had the most prized blessing in sport, the envy of athletes, strategists, and gamblers around the world.


“I was lucky.”
“I am lucky that I have whatever I have that makes me have a successful career, if you will.”
“It’s got to be a little more than luck, because the amount of work that you would put into characters…”
“Well, then I’m lucky I have the drive to do the work. But you’re always lucky.”

(Robert De Niro / CBS News, Robert De Niro: Just a Lucky Guy).

The most obvious evidence of Nibali’s luck was the fact that his main competitors did not finish the race. Christopher Froome, winner of the 2013 Tour– and probably this year’s favorite– crashed out early in the race. Alberto Contador, winner of the 2007 and 2009 editions, was considered by many to be Froome’s main challenger. He crashed about halfway through the race, fractured a tibia, and retired.

Whether Nibali would have won had the others stayed in the race is an open debate. Nibali dominated the race from the beginning and demonstrated exceptional form. But even by Nibali’s admission, the absence of Froome and Contador made his race easier.

The examples of Froome and Contador also demonstrate another way that luck decided the Tour. Froome crashed three times before he abandoned the race. The first crash was simply due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The second and third happened in the rain. One wonders what might have happened on a drier day– but in any case, if I recall correctly, the second and third crashes were again due to chance. Contador crashed because he hit a pothole at the wrong moment.

In a way, the fact that Froome and Contador were not able to stay upright is perhaps indicative of Nibali’s mastery of the non-numerical aspects of cycling. With his skills, they might have avoided the crashes. But it’s also possible that luck could have ended Nibali, too. A loose dog, a stray water bottle (which took down a teammate), a drunken spectator, a front flat tire on a descent– among many other things– could have ended Nibali’s Tour. Nibali was lucky that all of these were absent.

The chances are great that the best potential athlete in the world is an overweight, sedentary smoker. Right now, sitting in front of a television somewhere, is this person born to be the world champion in cycling and to dominate the sport as no one else ever has. At birth he was blessed with a huge aerobic capacity and all of the other physiological ingredients necessary for success. The problem is that he never had the opportunity to discover his ability, even though the motivation may have been there at one time. Maybe he was born into poverty and forced to work at an early age to help feed the family. Maybe he lives in a war-ravaged corner of the world where staying alive is the number-one priority. Or perhaps cycling just never caught his attention and he instead found success in soccer or playing the piano. We’ll never know what he could have been.

(Joe Friel, The Cyclist’s Training Bible).

But Nibali was also lucky in other ways. He was fortunate enough to be born to parents who passed on the genes that grant the physiology to win the Tour de France. Had Nibali had the same life he has had– same opportunities, same training– but with the genes of the average professional cyclist, his victory would not have been possible. The numbers do count for something, after all.

On the other hand, even with the genes, victory would not have been possible with parents who would have pushed him to become an accountant rather than a cyclist. And even with genes and a supportive family, Nibali could have been born to a poor family in Vietnam, or to an upper middle class family in Iraq– rather than a nation steeped in cycling history and industry.

And even with the genes, the family, and the opportunity, Nibali might not have won the Tour had he reached his peak form a few years prior– when doping was more common– or had he not found the right team to support his efforts. The list goes on, and it is long.

Is there room for merit? Effort? Individual achievement? For the hours of hard work Nibali put in, his dedication to training, his willpower in pushing himself to the edge of physical ability?

I am not sure. How much is the ability to push oneself through pain genetic? How much is dedication to training about being fortunate to have good parents– parents that raise you with a good work ethic? How much is the ability to train for a cycling event a matter of being raised in the right country, with appropriate infrastructure?

Extrapolate the point outside of cycling at your own risk.


Posted on 20140814


The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses—
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rock-heads—
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff.—As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

(Robinson Jeffers, Carmel Point).

The Leopard: “Their vanity is stronger than their misery.”

Posted on 20140707

After the happy annexation– I meant to say– after the propitious union of Sicily and the Kindgom of Sardinia– it is the intention of the government in Turin to proceed to nominate some illustrous Sicilians as Senators of the Kingdom.

Of course, your name was made among the first. A name famous for its antiquity, for the personal prestige of the person who bears it, for the great scientific merits, and for the dignified and liberal attitude assumed in recent events.

Before presenting the list in Turin, my superiors considered it dutiful to inform you, and to ask if the proposal would be appreciated.

The government hopes for your consent.

That is the object of my mission.

A mission which has earned me the honor and pleasure of knowing you and your family, and this magnificent palace.

Prince of Salina:
Explain to me, Chevalley, being Senator, what does it mean? What is it really? Is it an honorary title, or–

Prince, the Senate is the high chamber of our Kingdom, in it are examined, discussed, approved, rejected, those laws which the government proposes for the progress of the country.

When you are Senator, you will be able to make heard the voice of your beautiful land, which now faces the panorama of the modern world. With many sores to heal, many just wishes to fulfill…

Listen, Chevalley. I am very grateful that the government thought of me for the Senate. If it were simply a title of honor to place on a calling card, I would be ready to accept with pleasure.

But like this, no. I can’t accept.

But, Prince–

Have patience.

I am an exponent of the old class, fatally compromised with the old regime, and tied to it by constraints of decency, if not affection.

Mine is an unhappy generation. Straddling two worlds, and disadvantaged in both.

And moreover, I am completely without illusions.

What would the Senate do with me, an inexpert legislator, lacking in the capacity to fool himself– essential requisite for him who would want to lead others.

No, Chevalley. In politics I would not place a finger, they would bite it off.

Prince, I cannot believe you. You will seriously not do the possible to alleviate the state of material poverty, and blind moral misery, in which your own people lie?

We are old, Chevalley. Very old. It is at least 25 centuries that we carry on our backs the weight of magnificent and heterogeneous civilizations, all of them from the outside, none made by us, none which have germinated here.

For 2500 years we have been nothing else but a colony. I do not say it to complain, it is our fault. But we are very tired. Emptied. Spent.

But Prince, all of this is finished now. Sicily is no longer a land for conquest but a free part of a free state.

The intention is good. But it arrives late.

Sleep, dear Chevalley. A long slumber, that is what Sicilians want.

And they will always hate those who would want to wake them, even if it is to bring to them the most wonderful gifts.

And between the two of us, I sincerely doubt that the new Kingdom has many gifts for us in its baggage.

In our land, every expression, even the most violent, is an aspiration for oblivion.

Our sensuality is desire for oblivion. Our gunshots and stabbings– desire for death.

Our laziness, the penetrating sweetness of our sherbets– desire for voluptuous immobility– in other words, again for death.

Prince– Prince, doesn’t it seem to you that you are exaggerating? I myself have met in Turin some Sicilians that seemed everything but sleepyheads.

I did not explain myself well, I am sorry Chevalley. I said “Sicilians”, but should have said “Sicily”.

This environment, the violence of the landscape, the cruelty of the climate, the continuous tension in every thing–

But the climate can be won, the landscape– the landscape can be modified, the memory of bad governments can be erased. I am certain that Sicilians will want to improve.

I don’t deny that some Sicilians, transported outside of the island, are able to wake themselves. But they need to leave very young, at twenty it is already late. The crust has formed.

What you need, Chevalley, is rather a man that can reconcile his own particular interests with vague public ideals.

May I permit myself to transmit some advice to your superiors?

With pleasure, Prince.

There is a name that I would like to suggest to the Senate.

No thanks, I don’t smoke.

That of– Calogero Sedara. He has far more merits than I for being elected.

His stock, I am told, in ancient… or will be soon.

And he, more than what you call prestige, has power. If he does not have scientific merits, he has practical ones.

Almost exceptional. His activity was very useful during the crisis in May. In terms of illussions… I don’t believe he has more than I.

But if necessary, he is clever enough to invent them for himself. He’s the man you need.

Yes, yes. I have heard talk of Sedara. But if honest men like you retreat, the road will be free for men without scruples, without perspective– indeed, the Sedara. And everything will be the same as before, for more centuries.

Listen to your conscience, Prince, and not the proud truths you have mentioned. Prince. I beg you, try– to collaborate.

You are a gentleman, Chevalley. And I consider it a privilege to have met you. You are right in everything.

Except when you say… that certainly the Sicilians will want to improve. They will never want to improve… because they consider themselves perfect.

Their vanity is stronger than their misery.

But sit down a moment, I want to tell you something…


Posted on 20140706

Suppose a recently wedded couple is arguing over what color to paint the living room.

Now imagine that while they are carrying out this argument, the house is on fire. Smoke fills the room, embers crash around them, melting synthetics drip onto their skin. Despite the heat and vanishing air, they continue to debate, their last words spent on the merits of a particular shade of color.

Alternatively, imagine the captain of a ship plotting a route through a storm, or double checking how many supplies he needs to take on at the next port.

Perfectly reasonable and legitimate activities in the ordinary course of business.

Now imagine that the ship is sinking. And the captain, rather than preoccupying himself with the evacuation procedures, continues to plot course and calculate supply.

Now you are the first mate. And being of a kind, disciplined, and intellectual disposition, you attempt reason.

You ask the captain whether it might not be more opportune to focus on evacuation, rather than the future course of a sinking ship.

The captain replies that planning the route is of utmost importance, and that failure to plan could have grave consequences.

You state your agreement with that statement, but remind him that the ship is sinking now, and that the ship’s sinking means that route planning is no longer a priority.

Before the captain can respond, the second mate strikes him on the head with a wrench. The captain falls to the floor, unconscious, but not dead. The second mate exclaims that the captain must have gone insane– that this could be the only explanation for his inability to respond to the obvious change in circumstances.

You take over and begin the evacuation procedures.

There are probably better examples, but the intuition that I want to convey, and stress– and it is probably an obvious one– is that an accurate understanding of one’s context is fundamental.1 Decisions, plans, and priorities– proven and established in one context– may border on insanity in another.

A couple wants to argue decor over Sunday morning breakfast, fine. During a fire? Expect them to burn.

A captain routing through a storm: responsible, professional, and diligent. But not when the ship is sinking.2

Here’s one application of the intuition: the Earth and its climate is our house, it is our ship. But political leaders and everyday citizens– even those who acknowledge climate change and the gravity of its impacts– carry-on living their lives and running their government as if– as if one day we will still have a living room to paint or a storm to avoid.

In the meantime, the house is on fire, and the ship is sinking.

This analogy is obviously a simplification. The ship– our planet– is sinking relatively slowly, in human terms. And so a captain may be reasonable in trying to keep the engines running, in attempting repairs, and in charting a course through future storms. But the priority– the end of all this other work– must be to keep the ship floating.

To do otherwise means to end up with a planned route and no ship.

Unfortunately, humans are creatures of habit more than of reason. So while the smoke builds up and floods from ceiling to floor, the discussion at breakfast is of the economy, sporting events, celebrities, the next acquisition, the upcoming trip abroad.

“Is something burning?”
“I think a cool gray-green would be soothing, and elegant.”

In another context– life values, ambitions, goals.

Christians, for example, believe that this life is temporary and lived under judgement. The result of that judgement will be an eternity of one type of another. Given this context, they try to live their lives in a certain way, in accordance with certain values, hoping for the better outcome.3

In an atheist’s context, things are different. One life. No judgement, no recollection. There is no reminiscence, no replay at the end of the story. No reincarnation, except perhaps for Hamlet’s.4 The story can end at any time. For a sliver of time, conscious existence– perception of the senses, a memory, a voice, an identity, the illusion of action.

More context: the needs and fragility of the body, instincts and hormones, society and affections, culture, politics, the economy, education, work, war. The size of the universe, the duration of life.

In this context, how does a reasonable, attentive captain command the ship of the soul?

This is not something I plan to answer now– or possibly ever.5 But I think of the context of life often when I confront my impulses, ambitions, desires, goals. Even more so when I am presented with the idea of what society holds out as the well lived life: “success”, fame, wealth, pride. Years wasted indoors, under fluorescent lighting, to achieve these.

Wealth and pride do not carry over after death. Dead, one does not enjoy one’s fame, and humanity’s collective memory is of questionable reliability. Many are the things and people forgotten.6

The pillars of life, the strategic terrain, key features– are consciousness, the perception of the senses, thought, recollection. A full life– a well-navigated life– relies on these winds. It takes into account the brevity of these circumstances and the relative insignificance of their possessor. It enjoys the opportunity of experience, before relinquishing it forever.

The intuition, at this point in life, is not exactly a hedonistic carpe diem. The body has needs (and one needs a job and live in society to fulfill them). The consciousness comes with a memory and is under the influence of hormones and emotions. There is a place for work, and misery, and sacrifice for the future. There is recognition that there is an economy of time and pleasure, that certain feelings or perceptions only came after years of work and training and delayed satisfaction. But there is also the balance that now is the only certainty one has.

  1. I am not sure I am ready to either appropriately summarize, fully explain, or develop the intuition. This is an attempt, an initial exploration.
  2. There are probably better examples for the intuition, which do not need to rely on such stark contrasts to make the point. In most cases the issue of context is likely to be shades of gray. For example, a few crucial but hidden facts that if revealed make one course of action ridiculous.
  3. This is another simplification.
    Not where he eats, but where he is eaten: a certain
    convocation of politic worms are e’en at him. Your
    worm is your only emperor for diet: we fat all
    creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for
    maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is but
    variable service, two dishes, but to one table:
    that’s the end.

    A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a
    king, and cat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.

    What dost you mean by this?

    Nothing but to show you how a king may go a
    progress through the guts of a beggar.

  5. I have other priorities at the moment. But when I have the time, a developed understanding of the context of life would be the first order of business. How one should attempt to live in that context is a secondary question.
  6. Ecclesiastes