July 4, 2018 – A Ride for Another Day

(This piece was published on The Cape Cod Times web site on July 1, 2018 and on the editorial page of the print and digital editions on July 4.)

As I was bicycling to the end of the Shining Sea Trail in North Falmouth on a beautiful spring day, I imagined what it will be like some time in the future when the trail extends all the way to the canal. I saw the railroad tracks there today used only for the benefit of a private trash hauler and thought how much better that corridor would serve the region as a recreational trail.

Continuing north in my mind, I pedaled over the little bridge crossing Old Main Road and approached the former Cataumet railroad station. I pictured it being a popular gathering place serving not only those who use the trail but also as a year-round neighborhood center.

Crossing Red Brook Road, with Parker’s Boat Yard on my left and the historic Alden house on my right, I soon had two beautiful vistas across Red Brook harbor on one side and Red Brook pond and river on the other. Passing Kingman Yacht Center, I crossed Shore Road on another short bridge and headed toward Pocasset.

Before pedaling alongside the Pocasset Golf Course to the village center, I imagined stopping to rest at a picnic area on the site of the old South Pocasset railroad station. It took no imagination to realize this would be the most scenic rail trail of the many that I have biked throughout the northeast. But the best still lay ahead.

Not far after Barlow’s Landing Road, I envisioned pedaling across the upper reaches of the Pocasset River on the long causeway and trestle. The area east of the trail can only be seen by neighboring homeowners and an occasional paddler. It is so rife with birds and so undisturbed by development that it should be a wildlife preserve.

Continuing under the Shore Road overpass on my imaginary journey, I found a stunning late afternoon view across Little Bay and Tobey Island. Then I pedaled past Monk’s Park and through the Little Bay Conservation Area, with its shaded trails and abundant wildlife. As I cruised through the former Camp Briarwood, I recalled the many summers that my daughters enjoyed camping there.

Emerging from the shaded path through Briarwood I was greeted by the open vista of Monument Beach and the view across Phinney’s Harbor. As I cruised in my mind to the village center, I saw that the railroad station had become a bustling year-round place of rest and refreshment for both trail users and local residents.

After crossing Back River, I passed the spot at the entrance to the Gray Gables neighborhood where President Grover Cleveland’s private railroad station once stood. That building has been fully restored and moved to a more prominent location near the historic Aptuxet Trading Post.

From here it is just a short ride to the railroad bridge and the western end of the service road along the canal. I could imagine continuing my ride along the canalside path to Sandwich, meandering through the historic village center, and connecting with an extension of the Cape Cod Rail Trail to Provincetown.

But that is a ride for another day, as is the one I just enjoyed in my imagination along the wonderfully scenic and mostly hidden coast of Bourne.

August 28, 2016 – Stand By…

It’s hard to believe it’s been more than four years since I’ve posted an essay. Much has happened during that time: I failed retirement once again and have been working about 10 to 12 hours a week on consulting projects; I’ve chaired a couple of advisory committees for the town; and I sold my house, lived in a daughter’s spare bedroom for four months, then two years ago today bought a 22-year old condo that needed a total cosmetic rehab. Now I need to get serious about writing again, as another book is itching to come out. Stand by…

April 5, 2012 – Lincoln: Dumber than Dirt

Can a corporate slogan say something about management? In the case of Ford’s Lincoln division, it seems to say stupid is as stupid does. Last winter, their slogan was “Lincoln: more than just luxury, it’s smarter than that.” What were they thinking?

On hearing this, I wondered what “it” is and what “that” is, and how any competent manager could have authorized such an idiotic slogan. Wouldn’t it be better to simply say “Lincoln: smarter than just luxury”? Or better yet, “Lincoln: intelligent luxury”?

Apparently I was not alone in my criticism, because the company has now come out with a new slogan, “Lincoln: now it gets interesting.” Oh, really? Apparently, the same intern is still writing their copy, and her uncle is still the exec in charge of marketing.

I wonder how many others are so turned off by this flagrant display of corporate incompetence that they changed their plans to buy a Lincoln. After all, Lincolns are simply gussied up Fords, just as Lexus’ are Toyotas in tuxes, Audis are VWs at twice the price, and Acuras are Hondas with new nameplates.

Some manufacturers are building their luxury cars on premium platforms, however. Both Mercedes and BMW use unique platforms and engines for each of their product lines. Even General Motors, notorious for attaching many names to few models, now makes Cadillacs that are unique, exciting, luxurious, and intelligently designed. And they aren’t pushing them with silly slogans.

February 8, 2012 – Winners and Losers

The New England Patriots are losers. The Super Bowl, the annual ritual that takes us all back to our primitive roots, proved that yesterday. One of the two best football teams in the country lost a single game by four points and slunk off in disgrace—losers all. If they had played a series of games, as in baseball, the outcome might have been different. The bigger issue, though, is not the system of determining the winner, but our definition of winners and losers.

Think of how much incentive children would have to excel in physical activities if they were not taught at an early age that only the best are winners and that even the second best are losers. No longer would there be re­wards for the best and failure for everybody else.

We have been taught that war-like competition is essential to the advancement of society and to spur creative thinking in business and government, but we may now be learning that such competition actually retards growth. Competi­tion in business, government, and personal relationships is slowly being re­placed by cooperation, with startlingly positive results. Competition, as it has been traditionally defined, requires that there be winners and losers; cooperation results in winners on all sides.

One example that has affected us all is the telephone and electric companies. Free market economists argued that increasing competition among utility pro­viders would lead to lower prices. When the United States government eased its regulation of the telephone and electric companies, however, consumer costs more than doubled and service quality dropped dramatically.

When they were forced to compete directly with each other, electric companies stopped cooperating and sharing information. As a result, blackouts that might have affected only a local area in the past have, on several occasions, spread over large areas and even crossed international borders.

During the nineteenth century, competing interests built parallel railroads across several of the world’s developed countries. Many of those now-aban­doned rights of way were later used for electricity distribution lines. You can still follow them today when you fly. In every case, one of the railroads lost out in competition to the other, resulting in an enormous waste of resources.

In the final decades of the twentieth century a similar duplication of re­sources installed parallel fiber-optic cable grids to handle anticipated growth in communications. Today many of those cables lie unused, and the companies that did remain in the business are forming new cooperative alliances in an effort to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

A movement toward greater cooperation would not diminish the natural human desire for recognition and accomplishment, however. It would instead provide more incentive for individual accomplishments and entrepreneurship.

We have been told that competition encourages people to try harder. Per­sonal recognition and rewards, though, are bigger incentives to innovation than is beating out somebody else. That may be the key to this change: we might be moving toward a system that encourages innovation and growth, but not couched in the language or intent of making losers out of others who are trying to do the same thing.

There should still be incentives and rewards for individuals and companies that come up with new ideas and systems for increasing production, efficiency, and profits, but they should not be based upon beating or destroying the abilities of other individuals or companies from doing the same things. Imagine the possi­bilities that would come if the most brilliant and creative minds in business and finance cooperated to solve problems now facing our world. By working to­gether to provide the goods and services that we need, all would benefit, especially the consumers.

The International Olympics Committee awards gold, silver, and bronze medals to its participants. Maybe the Patriots and their fans would feel better today if they had taken home the silver.

January 19, 2012 – Moving into an Era of Change

Politicians campaign for change, and then govern to prevent it. Despite their best efforts to maintain the status quo, political leaders around the world are now seeing their governments change in ways they do not seem to understand.

While the changes in work, communications, economies, and attitudes toward war evolve over the next few generations, expect to see the role of government changing from historic patterns of defense and regulation into resources for growth and enlightenment.

The closer we move toward a more peaceful world, the more governments will be able to shift their priorities away from defense and into social programs. Fewer government resources will be needed for military purposes, as cooperation and diplomacy replace mistrust and belligerence in intergovernmental affairs.

The meltdown of the world’s financial system in 2008, triggered by unethical policies and practices of money managers in the United States and Europe, dramatically demonstrated how interdependent all nations of the world have become. In coming years we might expect this interdependency to increase and expand into areas beyond economic affairs and mutual defense and into areas of social welfare and personal freedom.

The current struggle between liberal and conservative political wings in the United States, United Kingdom, and several European countries could end up destroying the traditional system of political parties. Future leaders might hold all of the values that we now associate with disparate political philosophies. They may have little choice but to be fiscally conservative while being pressured to be socially liberal by an electorate that continues to struggle to maintain a basic standard of living in a rapidly changing world.

Governments in the future might become both libertarian and socialist. They might be less involved in regulating the behavior of constituents, businesses, and other governments, and more involved in providing the means and services needed for every person to live at a comfortable standard of health, safety, and personal fulfillment.

The result could be the elimination of poverty and starvation, with related steep declines in crime, stress, illness, terrorism, domestic violence, and infant mortality. Freedom does not come from less government; it comes from less suffering. True freedom is freedom from fear.

As secrets are exposed in business and in personal affairs, government too is finding it more difficult to keep activities from public view. Government agencies and officials at all levels are being forced to be more open with their constituents and are subject to considerably more public scrutiny than ever before.

As government becomes more transparent, it is becoming increasingly difficult for government leaders to hide incompetence, malfeasance, and immorality. While it may seem that such problems are more common lately, it is more likely that it is because they are being more frequently exposed.

Issues of war and peace have always been the work of governments, but this too is changing. As the nature of war shifts away from conflicts between countries and increasingly involves acts of terrorism or tribal genocide, expect the peace builders to emerge outside of government in the privately funded and grass-roots organizations.

At the same time, the role of the military could move from one of killing and destruction to one of training and peacemaking. Astute leaders of rebellions are learning that capturing the support of the population by providing protective and social services that are not being adequately addressed by government is an effective method of overthrowing that government. One notable example of this effect is the 2007 election of Hamas in the Gaza region of the Palestinian Territories, which caught Western leaders by surprise. The Muslim Brotherhood is currently gaining support in Egypt by providing social services to the poor that are not being provided by the military government.

The structures and attitudes of government are already changing. Totalitarian regimes are toppling or struggling to survive, challenged not by outside enemies or other regimes, but by their own constituents. Democracy appears to be thriving even as increasing numbers of people begin to question the wisdom of majority rule. Conservative thinking, widely considered to be a virtue throughout most of recent history, increasingly appears to be simply unenlightened.

Government will change as the attitudes of its constituents change. As more and more people become enlightened, they will gradually abandon their fears and conduct their personal lives in a more compassionate way. Governments, like their constituents, will also become less competitive and more compassionate. They may even move away from benefitting only the wealthy and powerful and move toward providing an improved standard of living for everyone.

There could also be a rapid increase in governments cooperating—or even combining—with former enemies. Watch for the emergence of new countries formed by the combination of smaller nations in Africa, South and Central America, Asia, Oceana, and Europe. The world is moving into an age of rapid change, despite the efforts of politicians to take us back to an earlier time.

December 16, 2011 – The One-Butt Kitchen

Ed Logue wanted to be Mayor of Boston. He lost the election but is memorable to me for two other things he did. As Director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority in the 1960s, Ed was responsible for the preservation of historic Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, a block of restaurants, shops, and museums that quickly became Boston’s foremost tourist magnet. He also coined the term “One-butt Kitchen.”

When he retired from public service, Ed moved to Martha’s Vineyard. He kept an apartment on Beacon Hill, however, and maintained a consulting practice in community planning and development in Boston. Ed had been retained by his island neighbors to review the design of the new ferry terminal building in Vineyard Haven, a project that I was managing for the Steamship Authority.

After a meeting at the architect’s office near Symphony Hall, Ed invited me to walk with him across Back Bay. This was clearly an opportunity not to be missed. Ed had recommended me for the project management position with the Steamship Authority and was a person that I had admired and respected since my college days.

We strolled across the plaza of the Christian Science Mother Church and stopped to rest on a bench at the Prudential Tower. This was Boston’s first—and certainly most unappealing—skyscraper. Robert Campbell, The Boston Globe architecture critic when it was built, described this building’s sole redeeming feature as being the only place in Boston where you could not see the Prudential Tower. Ed told me the background story of how the tower came to be approved and built in a city known for its low-rise buildings, and of how the design became controlled by the politics of the permitting process.

Walking through the public garden and across Boston Common, Ed continued his stories of how he worked around the stodgy and less than honest political climate of the time and started a movement that has dramatically altered the city’s skyline and neighborhoods.

When we got to the State House, we parted ways and I headed to South Station to catch the bus back to Woods Hole. Ed continued to his apartment, which he explained was so small that it had only a one-butt kitchen. That phrase stuck to my imagination more firmly than any of the other far more profound things he said that day.

On the bus ride back to the Cape, it was not the tales of urban renewal, historic preservation, and transformation of one of the world’s greatest cities that filled my thoughts; it was the concept of defining kitchen size by the number of butts that would be able to work in the space without endangering the others.

I have to chuckle whenever I see an advertisement for high-end appliances. They are always set in massive rooms, with high ceilings, lots of skylights, and each piece placed so far from the others that simply putting together a basic breakfast would be exhausting.

My own kitchen, like those in most dwellings, is probably a three-butt space. I have friends in California whose kitchen might be described as twenty-butt. They should probably wear roller skates to move between the refrigerator, sink, and stove while preparing a meal.

Despite the size of my kitchen, I prefer to work alone. My daughters know this and stay out of my way when I’m cooking. One of them has a boyfriend who is a professional chef and who agrees with my penchant for solitary cooking. Many times I had to gently guide my elderly mother out of the way while I was preparing a holiday meal. She felt she belonged in the kitchen and simply wanted to be helpful, but just seemed to be in the way every time I turned around. My one-time wife Martha was one of the first women graduates of the Culinary Institute of America. Martha moved around the kitchen with such abandon that nobody dared get in her way.

So I find the concept of a one-butt kitchen appealing. Mine is set up with the food prep area located between the sink and refrigerator, with all supplies and equipment within arm’s length, so I can reach everything but the stove without taking a step, and the stove is only two steps away.

Ed Logue had the right idea. And now that I’ve crossed the threshold of my eighth decade and am once again living alone, I’m thinking of moving to a smaller house. It may be a “granny flat” attached to my daughter’s place. It will have one bedroom, one bathroom, and a den. There will be no provision for guests other than a list of nearby restaurants and inns. And the kitchen will be just big enough for one butt: mine.

November 21, 2011 – Parade v. Parade

They call it “Loser’s Day.” It seems that back in 1814 the British Navy sailed up the Connecticut River and burned twenty-nine privateer ships moored at Essex. Historians cite the event as one of the greatest American losses of the War of 1812. This was apparently the village’s only claim to fame, so they celebrate it with an annual parade, which consists almost entirely of fife and drum corps and bagpipe bands, all in appropriate period costume.

This year the parade was held on May 14th, with dozens of bands participating. May 14th just happened to be the day of another important event in Old Essex Village this year—the wedding of my niece, Lauren, at St. John’s church.

Old Essex Village is a quaint little community overlooking the river a few miles north of busy Route I-95. Its streets are narrow and winding. Main Street is only one-lane wide at its busiest point between the Post Office and St. John’s Church. These buildings anchor the central portion of the small downtown and are two of a very few on the street that are less than 200 years old.

Because of the limited parking in the village, my brother Ken had chartered two large inter-city buses to take most of the wedding guests from their hotel to the church and to the later reception farther up the river.

Ken learned of the parade the day before, but was assured that it would march down Main Street and then come back up on parallel Pratt Street, and that it would end by 2:00 PM, in plenty of time before the 3:00 o’clock wedding. This year, for reasons we still do not understand, the parade turned around at the riverfront, and marched back up Main Street—an hour later than planned.

The first pipers and drummers arrived back at the head of the street just in time to meet a long limousine and two very large inter-city buses full of wedding guests arriving from the other direction. A state trooper at the intersection was directing traffic away from Main Street and would not let the wedding party proceed to the church.

At that point the state trooper met Lynn—the mother of the bride—who was not about to let a parade interfere with the most important day in her daughter’s life. After her children became adults, Lynn began working in a jewelry store at the Mohegan Sun Casino. There she artfully cajoled high-rolling gamblers into buying $65,000 Rolex watches and other pricy bling.

Despite her winning charm and proven sales ability, Lynn was unable to convince the trooper to halt the parade and let our cavalcade proceed to the church. The loser’s day parade became the apparent winner of this battle of wills. Lynn was not about to be a loser, though.

That is when she formed the counter parade. Led by the indomitable mother and the bride-to-be in her long white dress, and followed by the gaily-dressed bridesmaids holding their bouquets, the groomsmen in their rented tuxedos, and two large inter-city busloads of reveling guests, this parade marched down the sidewalk two blocks to the church.

It was a lovely wedding. The pipers and drummers finished their parade and left town before the service began. They did not compete with the magnificent pipe organ. Nor did they interfere with the stunning a cappella rendition of Ave Maria by a friend of the bride who has performed at Carnegie Hall as a member of the New York Opera Company.

Unexpected events that arise at weddings often become the basis of family legends. This was such an event. The bride and groom will have a wonderful story to tell their grandchildren someday. The guests all took it in good humor. The mother of the bride, however, was not amused.

October 21, 2011 – Got Mail?

Got mail? Maybe not. The U.S. Postal Service claims it might have to fold soon. This quasi-government agency has been losing massive amounts of money for years. First Class mail volume has dropped dramatically since email, electronic banking, and online bill paying have been introduced. Most of what the USPS delivers now is catalogs, magazines, and funding appeals from charities, non-profit groups, and political organizations.

Although not technically a federal agency, the USPS is forced to operate under rules set by Congress that have evolved into a Mission Impossible. It must maintain daily delivery service to every business and household in the country, no matter how remote. It must keep an outlet in every village and hamlet. It cannot raise its rates more than the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index. And it cannot lose money. This is not exactly a competent business plan.

Three simple changes could turn the Post Office around, however, without seriously impairing its mission. These changes would have been made long ago if the agency were a private company. They are: reducing the absurd number of post offices; changing the delivery schedule for residential mail; and setting rates competitive with UPS, FedEx, and other private delivery services.

The Town of Bourne, Massachusetts, with a population of 20,000, has one Starbucks, five Dunkin’ Donuts, and eight post offices. There is a single UPS depot. Bourne is physically bifurcated by the Cape Cod Canal and has a large military base that needs its own post office, but it could easily get by with only three others. Two of its post offices are located within sight of another, and all but two are located less than two miles from offices in neighboring villages or towns. This is a pattern that is common across the country. The USPS needs to close at least half of its outlets, but no congressional representative would dare to allow an office to close.

One proposal made to Congress by the postal service is to drop Saturday delivery. This change would not do much to help the bottom line, but it would make many people angry. The executives in charge apparently think that this would put enough pressure on Congress to appropriate some money or allow them to default on their obligations to the employee retirement fund.

A far more effective strategy would be to cut residential delivery to three days a week. Each route would still be a six day delivery, with half the route getting mail Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the other half getting mail Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The routes could be twice as long without increasing the workload of the delivery people. Business districts would continue to get six day per week delivery. Many people would still get angry but the effect on the agency’s balance sheet would be substantial.

A rate change could be beneficial to everyone. There is something drastically wrong with a system that charges forty-four cents to deliver a letter, but only pennies apiece to fill your mailbox with unwanted junk. Magazines and mail-order firms have argued that they would go out of business if they had to pay a fair price for delivery. That argument becomes increasingly weak, though, with the rapid changes we are seeing in how information is delivered. The worldwide shift to internet sources and on-line shopping means that there are likely to be far fewer magazines and printed catalogs a few years from now regardless of any change in postal rates.

So what will happen to our postal service? We can say with absolute certainty that we will never return to the days some of us remember, when the mail was delivered twice a day by a crisply uniformed man (never a woman) who traced his route on foot carrying a heavy leather bag of letters and bills. The three needed changes will eventually be made, but not by government action. When the situation gets bad enough, expect Congress to follow the German lead and contract mail delivery to a private company that will close the neighborhood outlets, drastically cut service, increase rates, and compete directly with the crew in the brown trucks.

September 24, 2011 – A Different Take on Evolution

Did Darwin get it wrong? The argument between evolution and creationism rages on a century later. After thirty years of metaphysical studies, I think both sides may be partly right and partly wrong. The key to the solution of this conundrum may be recognition of the concept of intelligent design, although not in the form currently defined by the creationists. The idea that the earth was created in seven days only a few thousand years ago clearly falls into the realm of mythology. On the other hand, Charles Darwin’s concept that species evolve through survival of the fittest may also be incomplete.

As scientists open their minds to broader thinking, they might consider that the earth and all its inhabitants could have been spontaneously created over time by some form of a superior energy force. They might discover that our planet has evolved, and every species evolves, not through survival of the fittest, but through a process that we might call the introduction of new models.

The press routinely reports the discovery of new varieties of plants and animals that are genetically different enough to be considered new forms of a species. It could be that, just as we constantly improve and upgrade our vehicles, appliances, and other material goods, so too does God improve and upgrade His products on earth.

September 24, 2011 – The Evolution of Religion

Surveys of American religious identification conducted in 1990, 2001, and 2008 by researchers at Trinity College of Hartford, Connecticut, have identified dramatic changes in attitudes of Americans toward organized religions. The most recent survey of more than fifty-four thousand adults found that fifteen percent of Americans claim no religious affiliation. What is especially notable about this figure is that this percentage had nearly doubled since 1990. Despite this sharp increase in non-affiliation, the Trinity survey found only one person in sixty—less than two percent—identified themselves as atheist or agnostic.

It is not that large numbers of people have abandoned belief or faith in God, but that they have found traditional religious doctrine to be irrelevant and often at odds with contemporary culture. The Trinity survey also found that the percentage of adherents of new religious movements, including Spiritualists, Wiccans, and pagans, had grown faster in the previous eighteen years, while membership in mainline Protestant churches had declined. It seems that people are searching for spiritual connections but not finding them in the traditional places and organizations.

The behavior of some church leaders has certainly contributed to this change in attitudes. Reports of televangelists preaching austerity but living lavishly on parishioner donations; advocating family values while cheating on their spouses; or being caught in homosexual trysts after declaiming that such behavior is a sinful personal choice, raise serious questions about their spiritual integrity.

The Roman Catholic Church has been shaken by the scandal of priests abusing children, then being protected by church elders. Evangelical Christian churches have fired ministers who studied
biblical history and realized that, although the bible may have been divinely inspired, its books have been so altered by men over the centuries that they cannot be considered the literal word of God.

The public image of traditional churches seems to be shifting away from the moral authority upon which they have always stood. Most of us want to believe in God, but we are beginning to mistrust
our religions and the images of God that they portray. A study published in April 2009 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that: “Many people who left a religion to become unaffiliated say they did so in part because they think of religious people as hypocritical or judgmental, because religious organizations focus too much on rules, or because religious leaders are too focused on power and money.”

It seems that many established religions have moved away from their original teachings of brotherhood and compassion. They advocate warfare and retribution, support killing in the name of God, and cling to outdated moral values that do not fit the realities of the world today and are not supported by their own original teachings. The more fundamentalist branches of some religions appear to have completely abandoned their original teachings and to have become the last bastions of hatred, intolerance, and hypocrisy.

During these times of economic and social stress in our society, people crave solace from their religious heritages but find cold comfort in the messages that they are getting. As the world’s population becomes increasingly enlightened spiritually, the religious institutions that have traditionally promoted enlightenment may find themselves so entwined in obsolete traditions that they no longer serve any useful purpose. Most people inherently know that there is more to life than that which they can see and touch, but have not yet found a way to connect with their higher selves and with a personal God they can trust

July 28, 2011 – My Lunch with Geena Davis

My lunch with Geena Davis and her family last weekend was not planned. I was just finishing a lobster roll at my favorite waterfront restaurant in South Freeport, Maine, when I noticed a strikingly handsome woman sitting at the next table talking lovingly with two young children. There was no mistaking that unique smile.

The kids seemed too young to be hers but too old to be grandchildren. They called the tall, dark, and equally handsome man at the table “Daddy” so I assumed they were the twins she had when she was nearly fifty.

We did not speak. She knew that I recognized her though. Even such a skilled actor could not hide the momentary look of terror I glimpsed when she realized I knew who she was. I figure that a celebrity vacationing with family on the coast of Maine would prefer anonymity to attention. I have followed the same policy with other famous people over the years.

A couple of decades ago my daughter Kerry and I were having lunch at the Friendly’s restaurant in the Cape Cod Mall. It was the middle of winter and we were the only customers there. When I saw a distinguished looking older man enter, sporting a white Van Dyke and a full-length sable coat, I said to Kerry “That looks like John Derek.”

“Who’s John Derek?” she asked.

“He’s a famous Hollywood producer and director who’s married to Bo Derek.” I replied.

Then she walked in, also in a full-length sable coat. They sat in a booth near us, he with his back to us. Bo removed her coat, proudly displaying her incredible assets under a tight knit top. She must have been about thirty-five then, but was still a 10. We did not speak, but I certainly enjoyed the view, much to Kerry’s amusement.

A few years before that, I was waiting for my baggage at the old Stapleton Airport in Denver. My mother and I had flown out west to attend another daughter’s graduation from The Colorado College. Mom was on the other side of the carousel when I realized that her all-time favorite actor was standing next to me. It was Perry Mason himself, Raymond Burr.

I tried to discreetly motion to Mom to join me but she was tired from the long flight and in one of her stubborn moods. Another woman approached Burr and told him how much she enjoyed his work. He thanked her politely then turned away before she could say anything else. Mom was not too happy when I told her what she had missed.

It must be tough to be a celebrity. They are paid well, but lose their privacy in the bargain. As public figures they become public property, owned by both those who admire them and those who revile them. We need to understand that they are just doing their jobs, though, and that we have no license to interrupt them when they are off-duty. I expect to meet other famous people someday, but we probably won’t speak.

June 22, 2011 – Enlightenment

Watching some of our political leaders respond to complex issues with overly-simplistic solutions makes one wonder if we need a new way to measure competency. These are intelligent and well-educated people, many of whom have been successful in business or professions, but they just don’t seem to understand the complexities of our world. They tend to define all problems in terms of right or wrong; they seldom consider the unintended consequences of their positions; and their solutions often come across as selfish and mean-spirited. What are we missing here?

Our culture recognizes that each of us has unique talents, abilities, and attitudes that make us different from others in measurable ways. We know, for instance, that some people are more athletic. We see that some are more creative. We acknowledge that some are more intelligent, or show more emotional maturity, than their peers. These measurements play important roles in determining our career paths, personal interests, and positions in society.

We have not recognized, though, that some people are more enlightened than others—further along on a path to more thoughtful and compassionate attitudes and actions. Yet a consideration of this attribute of human behavior opens a window of understanding that throws new light on many of the problems we are dealing with every day in world politics, government, and personal relationships.

Philosophers and psychologists have explored the idea of stages of human enlightenment for many years. Carl Jung set up a system for identifying different personality types that is used by human resource professionals to place individuals in compatible careers. Abraham Maslow, known as the father of modern management, wrote a theory of self-actualization, which he described as “the full use and exploitation of talents, capacities, potentialities, etc.” Maslow listed fourteen characteristics of self-actualized personalities, and eight behaviors leading to self-actualization. These definitions offer a good start to defining enlightenment.

The concept that we are all following a path to enlightenment is also a basic teaching of most of the world’s major religions. It says that we are all working toward a deeply understood knowledge of reality and our place in it, as well as an understanding of our relationship to God. Chinese and Indian Buddhists and Hindus call this state of enlightenment nirvana. Japanese Buddhists call it satori. This concept says that as we move along the path to enlightenment, we mature in our thinking and our behavior, becoming godlier at each step along the way.

How then should we measure enlightenment? There appears to be no relationship between levels of enlightenment and intelligence. More enlightened people may be no smarter than others, but they seem to be wiser and have a better understanding about the nature of life and reality. They tend to think and act differently from those who are less enlightened, though, and hold different social, political, and religious values.

The fearful and often violent behavior of people in primitive societies typifies the least enlightened traits, so we could say that the reciprocal of these behaviors—being trusting, compassionate, and peaceful—are signs of enlightenment. The rigid, controlling, and dogmatic policies of radical religious and political activists could also be seen as unenlightened. So flexible, accepting, and free-thinking traits would be more enlightened. Similarly, the egocentric, materialistic, and highly competitive natures of financial tycoons and industry leaders could be measured against more caring, cooperative, and non-material attitudes.

Two key areas that separate the enlightened from the unenlightened are the ability to feel true empathy and compassion for other people, and the ability to understand highly complex issues. The least enlightened people have no concept of compassion. More enlightened people might understand the concept intellectually but still not feel any empathy for others. Or they might adopt a false attitude of compassion and use it to their advantage. The most enlightened will feel others’ pain as if it were their own.

A similar scale can be found for the ability to understand complexity. The least enlightened might have no clue that a problem exists at all. Others will recognize a problem but define it so narrowly that they limit potential solutions and ignore side effects. More enlightened people often come up with solutions that are more complex than the problems they are trying to solve. The most enlightened might simply accept a problem as reality and move on, letting others deal with it.

Maslow reinforces these observations with his description of self-actualizing personalities. He says that self-actualizers have a more efficient perception of reality and more comfortable relations with it. He says they are more accepting of themselves, of others, and of nature. He finds them to be more problem-centered than ego-centered, and to display a sense of spontaneity, simplicity, and naturalness. All of these traits and behaviors could be defined as more enlightened.

One answer to the question of how to measure enlightenment might be found in studies of brain structure and chemistry. Neurologists have learned, for instance, that the reason adolescents tend to take unnecessary risks and make poor decisions is not just from lack of experience, but because certain sectors of their brains that process judgment have not fully developed. Perhaps the same reason applies to enlightenment. It could be that enlightenment either causes changes in brain structure, or results from such changes. That could explain the differences in our beliefs and behavior as we advance along this path.

Regardless of whether we succeed in identifying or quantifying enlightenment, the elected officials we get will most likely continue to be no more enlightened than the average of the people who elect them. It seems voters tend to mistrust anybody who is smarter or wiser than they. An enlightened approach would tell us to accept this fact of life and focus more attention on our own behavior.

February 15, 2011 – Distracted Driving

“I don’t like driving anymore” said my friend Paul after driving home to Wisconsin from visiting his daughter in Colorado. Paul likes to say I’m his oldest friend. He has friends who are older than I, of course, but he and I have known each other longer than we have known anyone else. I have a picture of the two of us sharing a baby stroller nearly seventy years ago.

Paul’s comment struck a responsive chord with me, as I had decided a year ago that I too no longer enjoy driving. I thought it might be because I’m getting old and cranky, and know that my eyesight and reflexes are not a good as they used to be. After a road trip through the Canadian Maritime Provinces last summer, though, I’m not sure it’s me. I now think that my reluctance to hit the road has more to do with the people with whom I have to share that road.

Just today I felt assaulted four times on a simple 26-mile trip into town. As I pulled onto the highway, an older car passed by going much too fast and much too close, it’s driver slouched against the door and barely able to see over the dashboard. On a winding side road a few minutes later, a car coming toward me crossed the center line on a curve, it’s driver steering with one hand and holding a joint in the other.

Then there was the apparently driverless car coming at me across the center line of Main Street. As I squeaked by against the curb, I could see the driver leaning way back between the front seats to reach something in the back seat. Finally, almost home, I was nearly rear-ended by a woman coming around a corner much too fast, apparently unaware of the line of cars stopped in front of her waiting for the lead car to make a left turn across traffic.

I didn’t see any of this sort of nonchalant, distracted or aggressive driving during my week in Canada. That 2000-mile trip took me along many narrow winding coastal roads and the full length of Route 2, the only Interstate-standard highway in New Brunswick. That area is more rural and less crowded than Cape Cod, but Canadian drivers seem to be far less stressed and to have much more cooperative attitudes than those in the States.

Driving into St. John, New Brunswick’s largest and most industrial city, on Route 2 during the mid-week evening rush hour, the highway bridge over the Reversing Falls was down to one lane for reconstruction. At the caution sign three miles back, the traffic moved into a single lane that crept slowly toward the bridge. The second lane wasn’t blocked but not a single car passed in that lane. I could not help but think of the Cape Cod Canal bridges and the improbability of that happening on one of those bridge approaches.

When I crossed the St. John River back into the States at the northernmost tip of Interstate 95, everything changed. This part of Maine is even more rural and sparsely populated than New Brunswick, but I was immediately tailgated by a noisy pick-up truck with tires too big for its britches. Two more trucks nearly ran me down before I got to Bangor. I was obviously back in the real world.

A panel of experts could speculate for days on why so many drivers take so many risks, paying scant attention to basic safety and courtesy. One factor may be that our vehicles and the highways we travel are both much safer now than they were when I first started driving more than fifty years ago. Cars back then did not have seat belts, shoulder harnesses, air bags, side impact bars, impact absorbing frames or collapsible steering columns. If you had a serious accident you were far less likely to survive to have another one. Today most highway fatalities are people who are thrown from the wreck because they were not belted in.

Our interstate highways are so safely engineered that driving them can be downright boring. As a result, drivers double up their time, eating, chatting on the phone, texting friends, checking email, filing nails, putting on make-up, shaving, or any number of distracting activities. When I was logging 45,000 miles a year of business driving, I listened to books on tape and frequently had to stop and think to remember which highway I was on and where I was headed. I never stopped paying attention to my driving, though, and had only one serious accident in a million and a half miles behind the wheel.

I was heading out of Boston on the Massachusetts Turnpike early one April morning when it happened. A light snow was swirling on the dry pavement and traffic was moving briskly. Suddenly the car in front of me was broadside to me. A few seconds later thirteen of us were piled up on a patch of black ice. My company car—a four-month old Buick—was now about four feet shorter than it had been minutes earlier. The door wouldn’t open because the fender was in the way, and the ignition key was jammed in the collapsed steering column. I walked away, though, with only skinned knees and a bruised shoulder where the safety belt had held me from going through the windshield at fifty miles an hour. Nobody else was seriously hurt either.

So it’s not so much the fear of injury that keeps me off the road now, as it is the behavior of so many of the other drivers. When I was teaching my daughters to drive, I told them to assume that every other driver was either drunk, stoned, crazy or some combination of the three. Today I would add angry, distracted and stressed to that list.

I also told them that 99.999999999999 percent of the time, driving is easy. It’s that one split second when it isn’t that you have to always anticipate. I’ve long held the idea that there are two kinds of drivers: those who have had their first accident and those who haven’t. I just don’t want to be in the way when one of those distracted or aggressive drivers moves from the first group to the second.

December 16, 2010 – The Energy of Thought

Could it be that our universe is simply a thought, or an infinite collection of thoughts? Might we each be only an idea living in an imagined reality? The evidence, both spiritual and scientific, is now pointing us in that direction. There is a growing belief that every one of us has an innate ability to manipulate and control our physical reality through our expectations, intent and desires.

Albert Einstein taught us that the universe is composed entirely of pure energy. He showed that all matter is simply energy moving at different frequencies, and that energy is never spent nor lost, only changed into another form or place. More recently, specialists in quantum physics have begun to realize that our thoughts are a form of energy and that thoughts can actually change the behavior of matter at the molecular level. Ervin Laslo, in his book, Science and the Akashic Field, An Integral Theory of Everything,  says that thoughts may differ from other forms of energy in that they can apparently travel long distances without losing power, and at speeds many times faster than the speed of light, which limits the velocity of all other forms of energy.

As this line of inquiry is explored further, researchers are likely to find that all of this universal energy, from that of the cosmos to that of our individual cells, is not only related, but also can be influenced in ways that we have never imagined, by our own thoughts and by both planetary and celestial actions, an idea that astrologers have known since before the time of recorded history. It logically follows that, if our thoughts can influence the behavior of atoms, and since all matter is composed of atoms, our thoughts should be able to influence the behavior of all matter.

Physicist Niels Bohr said: “We are not ‘measuring’ the world, we are creating it.” Steven Hawking, and his associate Leonard Mlodinow, said: “There is no way to remove the observer—us—from our perceptions of the world.” These creative thinkers are leading a new branch of scientific theory known as biocentrism. Theoretician and medical doctor Robert Lanza, who wrote Lanza’s Theory of Almost Everything, says “it’s us, the observer, who create space and time.” He concludes “Your eyes aren’t just portals to the world. In fact, everything you experience, including your body, is part of an active process occurring in your mind. Space and time are simply the mind’s tools for putting it all together.”

If it is true that everything—every subatomic particle in our reality—is only a thought, and if thoughts can travel unlimited distances at nearly instantaneous speeds, then we may have stumbled upon an explanation for how our essence—our consciousness—can exist separate from our physical bodies. That might also help to explain how we arrived on this planet from wherever we originated, how we go somewhere else when our bodies die, and how we maintain some form of earth consciousness after leaving our physical form. It might also be a clue to how we might be able to travel to other planets or galaxies despite the magnetic connections of our bodies to this earth or the limiting effects of time.

Many of us have experienced out of body episodes where we have left our physical bodies while sleeping or under sedation and watched ourselves from another part of the room. When I was fifteen I fell off the flying rings in the school gym and broke both arms. While I was under general anesthesia to have the bones reset, and a couple of months later to have one arm reset again, I clearly recall watching the operations from a corner of the room at the ceiling, and being rapidly and involuntarily drawn back into my body as I regained consciousness.

My youngest daughter had similar experiences when she was a child. She shared a bedroom with her two older sisters and often spoke, as if it were perfectly normal, of leaving her body while she slept and watching her sisters sleep from a corner of the ceiling, or playing with their toys. There have been countless anecdotal stories published of people traveling to faraway places while their physical bodies slept, and waking with detailed descriptions of what they saw and felt. If we can have these experiences while sentient, why wouldn’t we also have them when our physical bodies die?

Instead of encasing astronauts in dangerous simulations of earth environments such as rocket ships, space stations and lunar colonies, maybe we should examine the possibility of placing their bodies into states of suspended animation while their energy entities explore the limits of our universe. And, taking this concept another step, could it be that our planet has been thoroughly infiltrated by beings from other worlds who have already perfected these techniques? We might be under close examination and not even know it.

The Christian Bible tells us that Jesus Christ could walk on water, turn water into wine, and raise the dead, then said that anything he could do we could do too. Two thousand years later we still haven’t mastered any of these things. Manipulation of our physical environment, individually and by group thought, is certainly possible. Religious believers know the power of prayer to bring healing to the sick and relief to the suffering. Large groups sharing common thoughts might be able to alter the weather, calming stormy seas or bringing rain to parched crops. Many of us have learned how to manifest small miracles in our lives. Why aren’t we doing it more?

New inventions, scientific breakthroughs, music and other creative ideas often come to us while we sleep. Thomas Edison worked long hours but kept a cot in his laboratory where he would often sleep for a few hours before awakening with the answers to problems he was facing. Mozart said his music, even the symphonies, came to him as finished works—all he did was write them down. The basic idea for this essay came to me while I was sleeping. We may find in the near future that deep sleep is essential to creative thinking, and that we can bring into our lives anything we desire by simply stating our intent and thinking the thought.

October 28, 2010 – Healthy Eating

“Lose the oatmeal. Eat bacon and eggs for breakfast.” This was my doctor’s advice. It was my first visit with Doctor Jim Pierce, an advocate of healthy eating as the cure to nearly everything that ails us. Dr. Pierce says that the medical community has been giving bad advice to patients for forty years. He claims the primary cause of obesity, and many other common health issues, is not fat, but sugar.

When he told me I had to lose the pot around my middle, I was taken aback. I didn’t think I had a big belly. I’m 6’-4” tall, with a 38” waist, and at the time of that visit a year ago, weighed 212 pounds. Although I had long suffered from acid reflux and sleep apnea, I lead an active life and thought I was in much better shape than most men of sixty-eight. I attributed my high blood pressure and cholesterol numbers to heredity.

The doctor told me I had “rusty pipes” and was headed for a stroke if I didn’t make some big changes soon. He said he didn’t care about the numbers, but that my ratio of three types of blood cholesterol was “as bad as it gets.” He told me to cut out sugar, grains and fruit—including orange and apple juice—as well as bread, cereal and pasta. He said to introduce natural fats into my diet, especially nuts, bacon, fatty fish like salmon, and eggs, which he called the perfect food.

I had heard the same advice thirty years ago from my good friend and family doctor, Peter Horan, but it countered the counsel of the medical establishment, so I didn’t heed it then. I wasn’t sure I would follow it now. Over the following weeks, though, I did some independent research and started gradually changing my diet. I learned that, although my waist was half my height, it was my midriff at the naval that should be measured. Mine was 44 inches—six too many. And I learned that the fat I was storing around the middle was also stored around my heart, liver, kidneys and other internal organs, making them all work harder than they should.

Today my diet is very different from what it was a year ago. I didn’t follow Dr. Pierce’s extreme advice, but devised a plan that has worked for me. I’ve shed four inches off my middle, dropped to 195 pounds for the first time in twenty years, and dramatically reversed my cholesterol ratios. I have not been troubled by either acid reflux or sleep apnea attacks since making the change. Best of all, I now eat all my favorite foods, including English muffins, cheddar cheese and ice cream. I put cream in my coffee and real butter on my muffins.

Here is how I did it: I eat less than half the volume of food that I used to consume. I cut out the orange and apple juices, but occasionally have a small glass of lemonade. I rarely eat fast-food, and completely cut out frozen dinners and other prepared meals. I still eat oatmeal or shredded wheat for breakfast, piled with fresh strawberries and blueberries in season, or mixed with cranberries and walnuts in the winter months. Two or three days a week, I cook up some bacon and scramble a couple of eggs in the fat left in the pan. I pour off the bulk of the fat to use later instead of cooking oil.

My lunches are no longer deli sandwiches or bowls of soup, but a single egg or a slice of cheese melted over a slab of tomato on an English muffin. Dinner is a six-ounce portion of wild salmon, free-range chicken, or grass-fed beef with a big serving of steamed vegetables. My favorites are asparagus, broccoli, green beans, spinach and peas. I never liked potatoes, corn or carrots, all of which are loaded with starch. Desserts include a tablespoon or two of ice cream or half an ounce of dark chocolate at lunch and a similar portion of fruit sorbet or a mint after dinner.

I rarely drank beer or soda, but loved fruit juice. Now I have coffee with breakfast, water or lemonade with lunch, and a double shot of black rum with dinner. During the day I drink water. On Dr. Pierce’s recommendation, I take a fish oil supplement three times a day to clear my rusty pipes. I cut back on salt to the point where I began to get leg cramps at night, so have reintroduced it into my diet, but still avoid canned soups, fast food and many restaurant entrees, which are all loaded with sodium. I eat out two or three times a month, but am selective about what I order.

I do get hungry sometimes, but it’s a pleasant hunger that I hadn’t experienced since I was a child. I feel it first thing in the morning, but seldom during the day. According to Dr. Pierce, the natural fats that I now consume satisfy my hunger so I eat smaller portions. He says they also help my body to metabolize cholesterol, vitamin D and calcium. I no longer feel a constant need to eat, which I have learned comes from consuming too much sugar and salt.

Although I now eat far less than I used to, my food budget hasn’t gone down. The high-quality, organically grown, meats and fresh vegetables cost a lot more than the factory food, and are more likely to be found in small markets that have a higher mark-up than the big supermarkets. I also buy only uncured bacon, which costs more but has less nitrate and nitrite, and free-range organic eggs, which cost two or three times the price of factory farm eggs, but taste better and are less likely to carry disease or contamination.

Is this diet for you? You’ll have to ask your doctor. If you hear the same old no-fat mantra, though, you might ask for a second opinion. I’ve found that most of what the doctors knew for certain when I was a child has since been proven wrong, so I don’t trust everything they tell me now. This diet has worked well for me though. You can find more of Dr. Pierce’s advice at http://piercework.typepad.com/doctorpierce/.

September 27, 2010 – Strange Language

As a news junkie I rarely miss National Public Radio’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Despite the liberal bias of NPR’s commentators, they provide the only news source that interviews proponents of all sides of the issues and calls on diverse experts in academia and politics. Lately, though, I have become hung up on a couple of strange trends in the language of these experts.

For many decades I’ve cringed at what I call the “academic stutter,” that affectation of hesitancy and repetition so common among college professors. Almost as annoying is the pretentious pronunciations of the English aristocracy and their American wannabes. Just this morning, I was listening to a prominent English rabbi whose message was lost on me as I tried to imagine what eggos had to do with religion. It took me a few minutes to realize he was speaking of egos. More recently I’ve been adjusting to well-educated young commentators from southern California who still carry traces of their valley girl argot. Some of this affectation has been moving into the mainstream, with the odd result that food has become fewd, spoon has become spewn, and similar words are taking on new pronounciations.

The most annoying peccadilloes, though, have appeared only recently but are heard several times a day from people who should know better. These are the terms “you know” and “I mean” thrown in where we used to hear “like” or “um” or “er” or similar thoughtless fillers. If I already know, why are you telling me? If you don’t know what you mean, why are you wasting my time?

There. Now I—you know—feel better. I mean, what good is a blog if you can’t get these things off your chest?

March 25, 2010 – A Change in Direction

One of my resolutions for this year is to post my blogs weekly. Lately, though, I’ve been posting weakly. Mea Culpa. My energy has gone instead toward finishing the revision of my book and trying to decide whether to publish it or not. That may seem like a strange decision but it isn’t really. Publishing is changing so fast that it has become both easier for individuals to do and less likely for them to succeed.

Writing the book was, per se, a most rewarding and enlightening experience. The time was not wasted. I may just present it in pieces on this blog site. Some of the ideas have already appeared here. At this point, I’m leaning toward printing up a few copies for family and friends and offering it through web retailers using Print On Demand.

The thrust of my book is an introduction to the major shift in energy that has occurred in our world and what that shift means for our future. It addresses the myths and paranoia surrounding the year 2012. It looks at the climate and geologic changes that we are experiencing. It cites sources of information that we have been receiving from unknown origins. And it speculates on how our lives will be affected over coming decades and generations.

My first draft was rather preachy and stiff. One friend who read it called it a personal narrative, a comment that gave me the direction I needed to make it more interesting and readable. Part I now traces the path I followed to the knowledge and philosophy that I expound. Part II looks at the changes we are seeing in our world, or politics and our personal lives. Part III suggests how these changes will affect every aspect of our lives. Stand by for the rest of the story.

March 2, 2010 – Our Shifting Earth

An article by Alex Morales on Bloomberg.com today quotes NASA geophysicist Richard Gross as saying that the Chilean earthquake likely shifted the earth’s axis. There is evidence, however, that the reality may be the other way around: a shift in the earth’s axis may have triggered the earthquake. In 1992, spiritual channeler Lee Carroll published information claimed to have come from a spirit entity called Kryon. At that time Kryon said that his duty is to adjust the magnetic energy of the planets. He also said that between 1992 and 2004, he would be altering the magnetic axis of the earth by about twenty degrees.

Our first reaction, of course, is to dismiss such a claim as just so much arcane nonsense. At least until reality gets in the way. In this case, we have a report from the Canadian Geological Survey that documents a dramatic and unprecedented movement of the magnetic north pole between 1992 and 2004 from its historic location in northern Canada to the border of Siberia. Kryon said such a change in earth energy would result in dramatic climatic changes, including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, more severe hurricanes, and strange temperature changes, both up and down. Kryon also said that the purpose of the energy adjustment is to allow a change in thinking within the world’s population from an era driven by fear and violence to a new era of peace and compassion. We’re still waiting for documentation of that claim.

February 23, 2010 – Population Surprises

What percentage of the world population lives in the United States? If you don’t know the answer you might be surprised to learn it is less than five percent. That means for every person living in the US, there are twenty-one people living somewhere else. The population of Russia is less than half that of the US. For every US resident, there are about 4.3 people in China and 3.8 in India.

At the other end of the scale, there are about three people in the US for every Mexican and ten for every Canadian. Norway has about two-thirds the population of New York City. The total population of Iceland is about equal to Bakersfield California, Aurora Colorado, Corpus Christi Texas or Anchorage Alaska. The smallest country in the world is Pitcairn Island, with fifty residents.

So what does this mean for us? It shows that the big world powers of the past are relatively small compared to the emerging countries that are now becoming leaders in the world economy. The time has come to stop fretting about Mexicans sneaking across the border and start paying attention to money and power flowing out of our country and empowering the 900 pound gorillas sitting on the other side of our globe.

February 18, 2010 – Nuclear Power

My kid brother holds a Masters Degree in Nuclear Engineering and never had less than the highest grade in every class he ever took. He is now a foremost authority on nuclear power. Despite his intelligence and professional success, however, he is astonished to hear that President Obama and the New York Times are actively promoting construction of more nuclear power plants.

As you might surmise, brother and I stand at opposite poles politically. I formed my views during a long career working in and with government agencies at all levels; his result from family heritage, and long association with other people who think as he does. His work in nuclear power has been frequently stymied by the actions of radical environmentalists and his political views lead him to believe that all politically liberal thinkers are radical environmentalists.

The real problem with nuclear power lies not with the environmentalists or the liberals, but with the engineers and scientists who have not even tried to address the issues of nuclear waste disposal and site-specific power generation. To my brother and his colleagues, nuclear waste can never be deactivated, therefore it can only be buried. This mantra is so deeply ingrained within their community, that nobody is even trying to find an alternative.

I suspect that someday a scientist, while trying to solve a completely different problem, will discover an astonishingly simple biological treatment for nuclear waste. The future may even show us how to harness the magnetic energy that powers our planet. I don’t see a long-range future for nuclear power, though. The era of constant growth in world population and economic development is coming to a close. The future I see is of fewer people using less power more efficiently. Major cities and industrial centers will still need central power plants, but most of the world’s electric power needs will be served by on-site or neighborhood solar, wind, tidal and hydro generators.

October 14, 2009 – Marriage

Three years ago today I married the woman of my dreams. My first marriage ended thirty years ago and I long vowed not to make that mistake again. This second marriage lasted less than a year. Some people were never meant to be married and I seem to be one of them. Given my poor record at it, my attitude about marriage should not surprise anyone.

The institution of marriage is now being tested as never before and appears to be evolving into something very different from its traditional definition. We are beginning to realize that marriage as we have known it no longer fits the way we now live. Fewer than half of all marriages endure, and divorce has become a common procedure that often involves little more than a few minutes in court. Marriage has effectively been redefined in recent years, but we have yet to publicly acknowledge the change. Two issues are now forcing our society to face the need to change how we deal with both the legality and morality of marriage: one is the emerging parity of women with men in all aspects of our lives, the other is the question of nontraditional unions between homosexual couples.

As women become more independent and more fully integrated into business, government, churches and other institutions, the need for a legal mechanism to protect their welfare becomes increasingly archaic and unnecessary. One likely outcome of the current debate is a separation of the legal contract from the emotional ritual. We might maintain the ritual, either religious or civil, as a means of personal emotional commitment between two self-sufficient individuals, while setting up a separate legal process to protect the interests of both parties if and when the emotional commitment fades.

Protection of the rights and interests of children will remain paramount, but protection of established living standards of the parents might no longer be considered important. Separation of the legal and emotional, or ritualistic, components of marriage will lead to a natural solution of the problem now being debated as to how to handle marriages between persons of the same gender. With a clearer distinction between legal obligations and moral purposes, there will be less confusion of the issue by religious dogmatists.

July 21, 2009 – To the Moon

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the first human setting foot on the moon. This was an incredible feat for NASA and a political victory for the United States in its competition with the Soviet Union for top dog status. Once it was done, though, all the brilliant scientists who made it work left NASA for new challenges and monetary rewards in the private sector. Since then the agency has been plagued by incompetent management, bureaucratic bungling, and disasterous blunders. The only useful project they have created in the past four decades is the Hubble telescope, and even that required an enormously expensive repair after it was launched with a faulty mirror. NASA has dumped billions of dollars into a useless space station that they won’t be able to get to after the last space shuttle is retired next year. Now they are talking of going to the moon again and have already spent $8.6 billion on their absurd plan to send people to mars. The time has come to shut down this aging relic.

Our current mythology supposes that there are advanced societies living on other planets. The concept of traveling through space to other planets and other galaxies has appeared in our thoughts and literature for several centuries. For the past fifty years we have been sending people into space to explore our earth and its moon. We have sent unmanned satellites to mars and on flights that passed close to other planets. Our scientists have gathered huge amounts of information and knowledge of our universe and the galaxies beyond our own. This exploration has produced more questions than answers, however, and has led the more advanced theoretical physicists to question many of our basic scientific assumptions.

It is likely that the future will bring us into contact with beings from other worlds. We don’t yet know whether this contact will be physical or only through communications. It is not likely, though, that we will be able to physically transport our bodies very far beyond our own planet without dire consequences. What our scientists have not yet recognized is the fundamental organic connection between our physical bodies and our planet. There are very good reasons why outer space, the moon and even the polar regions of the earth are such brutally hostile environments for human beings. As we learn more about the earth’s magnetic forces and the fundamental energy connections between our bodies and our planet we will come to better understand these reasons. In the meantime, let’s redirect those billions of dollars we are blasting into space and put them toward improving the lives of those of us trying to get by on earth.