Thich Quang Duc and Wynn Alan Bruce

Most people my age and older have some knowledge of, and may have the image (above) seared into their mind of when Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, set himself on fire to protest the police and Vietnamese army’s massacre of Vietnamese people during a celebration that turned into a protest. At the time Vietnam was 90% Buddhist but the current ruler, Ngo Dinh Diem, was Catholic and wanted to “westernize” the nation and so banned the display of religious flags. On May 8, 1963, they celebrated Phat Dan, or the day of the birth of the Buddha, religious flags were displayed, and the massacre ensued. A month later, on June 11, Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk who was not at the massacre, sat down in the middle of the same street, began meditating, set himself on fire (doused in gasoline) and sat motionless as he burned to death.

An American photographer happened to be on the scent and got the iconic, jaw-dropping photos that exploded across the globe. Thich Nhat Hanh, another Vietnamese buddhist monk, prolific author and teacher, often brought him up in his writings, and while I never committed the man’s name to memory, I never forgot that image since I saw it as a teenager in the 1970s.

Recently, a blip in my online, 24-hour news feed, filled with stories of mass shootings, war in Ukraine, awful American (and worldwide) politicians and people, and the ongoing, ever-expanding destruction of the planet thanks in large part to human-induced burning of fossil fuels, was something about an American who did something similar in Washington DC. I’m appalled and embarrassed how little attention I paid.

Reading the obituaries in the local paper this morning I stopped cold when I saw: “on the steps of the Supreme Courthouse…”

“Bruce, Wynn Alan
Born in Green Bay WI Aug 25, 1971 and died on Earth Day April 22, 2022 on the steps of the Supreme Courthouse in Washington DC. His father, Douglas Bruce (Holly), mother Martha, stepbrother Eric (Jamie), extended family and friends in Minnesota and Boulder, CO and around the country are greatly saddened by his death but respect and honor his commitment to the issues of climate change and the environment.”

Unless you’ve got your head jammed straight up your ass and/or have been fooled by extremely effective but idiotic right wing media, you understand what is happening right now to our climate due to humankind. I’m human and not at all pretending I’ve been doing much myself. In fact, my passion for doing something about this has been washed away, shall we say, having watched the world (and more importantly, individuals like you and me) do absolutely nothing about it.

Scientists have been warning us for decades, and year after year, the climate has been proving them almost exactly right, but to pretty much no avail. So I’m now at this point hopeless we’ll do much about it and wondering what we’ll do about the consequences. How will we handle the flooding of coastal and inland low lying areas? What will we do about the incredible heat waves that will make many places currently filled with humans uninhabitable? How about the massive fires that will only get worse and worse? Who’s going to pay to rebuild after the super storms keep coming and damaging property, farmland, and infrastructure? And in the current pandemic of xenophobia what will we do with the mass migrations due to heat, flooding, fires, storms and water shortages?

Of course, we’re already paying for increasing storm damage, controlling and putting out growing fires, cleaning up and relocating people after massive flooding, but it’s that last one that I really worry about. Here in the U.S. people are filling their pants because there are 60,000 people at the southern border trying to get into our nation of 330 million people. What about when there are 10, 50 or 100 million people clamoring to get in? What big beautiful wall is going to stop them? How about when the entire population of Southwest U.S. starts running north and east? What happens then?

We’ll see. Then, by the way, is only a few decades out, maybe sooner. But here we sit, doing nothing and not even noticing, when Green Bay’s own, Wynn Alan Bruce, sits down in plain view and burns himself to death in an incredibly brave warning to all of us of what’s coming. Blip.

We think we know

Sentient beings need a brain, right? A nervous system to tell the body what to do in the world. It’s what we know. It’s all we know. But there’s a single-cell slime mold, sans any nervous system, that learns, passes knowledge to other molds, and repairs itself within minutes. No one knows even how to categorize this organism.

It’s been around for millions of years, but we have no idea what it is. Is it an animal? Is it a fungus? It’s capable of memory and adapts its behavior. It solves problems of moving around a labyrinth.

“The blob can navigate without eyes, limbs or wings. When researchers sliced up the organism and sprinkled them in a maze, the blob consolidated into its original form.” And get this: “After introducing the experiment to a new blob and allowing it to merge with another, the new super blob show incredible smarts. ‘Somehow during the merging process, the naive cells learned a behavior for a situation that they themselves had never experienced.'”

Crows taught to fear a particular human will give birth to baby crows that have never seen that human or know anything about it, but know to fear it. What do we know?

Depression and anxiety symptoms linked to reduced information-seeking behavior

Allow me to flip that on its head.

Reduced information-seeking behavior linked to depression and anxiety symptoms.

I was finally diagnosed with adult ADHD at 54 years of age. It explained so fucking much. I always jumped into everything head-first. I never wanted to learn anything officially. So I generally always sucked at things. I’m a drummer! Drum lessons? Nope. … Sell the drums. I’m a bass player, I’m a playwright, I’m a business owner, I’m an accountant, I’m a writer, I’m a social media guy… I was none of those things because I had no patience to really learn them. I just wanted to do them. And I got bored almost immediately. That is classic ADHD behavior.

As an adult I had awful depression and anxiety. From college on, I struggled with both and felt weak and pathetic for having them. I had no right. My life was fine. But the reason I did is because I never prepared for or really learned anything. So I just faked it and that led to serious anxiety; and as I failed, depression.

I never slept very well and so my doc thought I might be bipolar so I met with a psychiatrist. He asked me a bunch of questions and said, “You’re not bipolar, you’ve got classic ADHD.”

After a couple of days of testing, it was confirmed. I treated the ADHD, and the anxiety and depression went away. I was suddenly able to pay attention more, focus better, slow down, know my limitations and what is needed to succeed.

Poof – I’ve still had some anxiety but no depression for over a year. The lack of learning ( information seeking) led to the depression and anxiety. Now I’ve learned how to learn to be happier.

Frankenstein

It’s ten below outside heading toward 20 below. If you’ve not felt that kind of cold, it’s dry; it’s really really dry. Body lotion vanishes like mist in Phoenix. Static electricity loves this kind of dry!

I have to roll up the trash bins so I put on my green puffy down jacket and a wool hat, making sure my headphone cord is on the inside so it doesn’t get caught on anything like the trash bin handles. It’s ten below and that generally means crystal clear. Not a drop of water in that air. There’s a delicate moon, just a sliver, running from 2 to 8 on a clock tip to tip. “You could hang a bucket on that moon,” my grandma Lucia once said about a similar moon at a different time.

It’s beautiful, but it’s also stupid-cold out there so I head back inside. I stop in the entryway and close to door behind me to keep the cold out. I pull off my puffy down jacket. The cord sticks to it and then peels off.

A pack of tiny firecrackers goes off in each ear. Electricity dances between the ear buds and ears. Each feels like one of those electricity balls that makes kids’ hair stand on end when they put their hand on it, but without the glass ball. It hurts! My shirt billows toward the jacket and hangs there for a second . I’m pregnant with static electricity; Marylin Monroe on the sidewalk grate. I shake the sparks from my shirt and throw my crackling hat on the jacket, watching as all around me the energy slowly snaps itself out.

I’ve had more painful shocks from static electricity, but this went on like a fireworks grand finale. I wonder if it’s going to give me any superpowers.

We’ll start the new year off with a bit of science.

Floating Houses

Not like houseboats, but houses that are moored to the bottom of the sea that then glide “up and down their steel foundational poles with the movements of the waters below.” Movements that, of course, create energy. These homes float but are also “weighted by basins filled with recycled, water-resistant concrete…” to give them some heft on the sea, and they note that “Heavy pieces such as pianos are counterweighted with bricks on the opposite side of the house.” I wouldn’t have thought of that until they rolled the piano into the living room. 

Our oceans WILL rise and our coasts WILL flood, no matter what we do now, so thinking in terms of taking advantage of the changes that we will have to cope with in the coming decades, is exactly how we should all be thinking. 

Cognitive Issues Decline in U.S.

“From 2008 to 2017, the percentage of adults ages 65 and older in the U.S. with serious cognitive issues dropped from 12.2% to 10%…” This was from a Canadian Study that if accurate would have saved about 1.1 million people in the US from the ravages of dementia. My father had Lewy Body, a form of Alzheimers. It’s awful, awful stuff. This is good news and let’s hope it holds up with additional studies and continues in that direction. 

My parents smoked and drank quite a bit for most of their lives. Let us hope that didn’t have anything to do with it. I’d be screwed. 

More seriously, this is a beautiful piece of writing about an aging mind.

Synthetic Biology

What is it? Not much, just “a transformational technology to feed the planet, conquer disease and combat pollution.” Nothing to see here. What? Here’s how they describe it. “Biological information is coded in DNA, so it can be programmed – with the goal of redesigning organisms for useful purposes.” And if that don’t send a chill up your spine, you might want to read it again. 

They say that synthetic biology “holds the promise of reprogramming biology to be more powerful and then mass-producing the turbocharged cells to increase food production, fight disease, generate energy, purify water and devour carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.” They say it will grow exponentially, similar to computing power over the past decades. See. It’s not all “redesigning organisms for useful purposes,” in fact, “the potential is for civilization-scale flourishing, [That’s Drew Endy, “an evangelist” for synthetic biology and a professor of bioengineering at Stanford University] a world of abundance not scarcity, supporting a growing global population without destroying the planet.” 

In fact, the revolution is already here: “…the DEKALB seed business … is creating nitrogen-fixing microbes to apply to seeds, potentially reducing the use of chemical fertilizer.” And even better: “Cronos, a Canadian company, is using synthetic biology to develop cannabis edibles.” Seriously; that’s what it said.

Sticks

Sticks. Sticks. Sticks. Sticks. Sticks. Sticks. Sticks. Sticks. Sticks Sticks Sticks Sticks Sticks Sticks Sticks Sticks SticksSticks SticksSticks SticksSticks SticksSticks SticksSticksSticksSticks SticksSticksSticksSticks sticksstickssticksstickssticksstickssticks

and more fuggin sticks!!!!

I love trees. I’m surrounded by them and that is by design. I cannot be happy unless I spend enough time out in nature – among trees in particular, lakes, the like. This is true of most people. In fact, study after study shows that spending time in green places, rural areas, parks and so on makes you happier. It also makes you healthier and smarter and better looking. I made up the last one, but it still might be true.

In fact, I am blessed with a home that is surrounded by trees. It’s a little oasis and I can only really see a neighbor in one direction – everyone else is behind the trees. The trees range from spindly little invasives to great, towering oaks. I am in awe of the latter. I can sit and take in a tree as I would a lake or the firmament. The complexity of a single tree is beyond our ken, yet we take them so very for granted. It’s just a tree. Bullsticks. They are majestic, powerful and certainly sentient in their own arboreal awareness.

But they drop so many fuggin sticks!! Every morning there are more on my yard; in a week, the yard will be filled with sticks and after a windy day? Forget about it. Sticks everywhere! So I bend and stoop and rake and carry throw and bundle and burn and chop and cut and and kick and curse and bitch at sticks day in and day out. Always. Everywhere. Sticks.

Now multiply that by two as we have a family cabin surrounded by a battalion of trees. I spent the weekend there picking up sticks only to come home to more sticks from Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Ignoring the sticks and instead walking the dog I had to look up on the trail as if I looked down, just more sticks. Big sticks, little sticks, twigs, logs, bends, elbows, branches, all jutting out in all three dimensions, some straight and narrow, others like webs or giant insects with legs and antennae tangling themselves with all the other branching, clinging sticks.

My nemesticks.

The Answer is No

certs_wintergreen.jpg_1I set out to suck on a Certs today with real purpose. I wanted to, well, not bite it, for one; but also to “be one” with my Certs. Seriously. I wondered if the Certs experience in my mouth would be enough to hold my focus, allowing me to enter into a deep meditation while the minty freshness sort of emanated out of me in all directions like a bright green wintry lightbulb of lovingkindness. I bit it in like four seconds.

The answer is no.

The Dubstep Show

Okay, so the dubstep show. That was trippy. And I wasn’t even tripping. I had no idea that happened. Picture these young folk with an array of colorful, brightly lit baubles and bangles, hula hoops and hats, glowballs and whatnot, much of which they swung around in slow sometimes erratic orbits in an otherwise mostly dark room.

They wore big furry bear hats, and sometimes that was about it. They wore footy pajamas with hoods. They even wore beaded masks. I’m not sure what that was all about but it was rather disconcerting mostly because it must be complicated to breathe, let alone drink. And they had gloves with lighted fingertips that they wiggled around in front of other dubsteppers faces like some crazed magician.

The deejays pounded out music with their fists in the air. I couldn’t tell exactly what else they were doing up there. A lot of dancing and then stopping to work on something on a table in front of them. But the music pounded the people and the people jumped up and down ecstatically. The ones toward the back, the really trippy ones, mostly just spun around in circles – often well-lit as well.

But it was cool! Kind of Build-A-Bear meets Cabaret Voltaire cool, but cool like that! I wanna go again – and be almost the oldest guy there. There was an elderly gentleman in a straw hat with a handful of glow stick bracelets on each wrist. He rocked back and forth in the middle of the crowd. I was proud.