Energy

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I was completing an assignment yesterday on metabolism, as one does

If there was one thing I took from that assignment (ok, ok, it was quite interesting, so maybe not just one thing!) was that life requires energy. In the absence of energy there is no life. Maybe life is energy… I don’t know, not going there at the moment.

But we need it and each drop of it is parsimoniously eked out to make it last and drive as much activity as possible. The body even uses the waste product (heat) to maintain energy production and storage. The body is also more efficient at utilizing energy than anything we’ve been able to come up with.

So far so obvious. Now we come to the nitty-gritty: how in the world do we mobilize all this energy to serve our purposes? Oh wait, do we have a purpose? Quick, get back to the drawing board and get thee one

But other than being cheeky, it’s not just the purpose that we need energy for – I use enormous amounts of energy for waiting!. The body uses most of the energy just to stay alive (you know, allowing our big brains to control breathing, heart pumping, digestion); in contrast, we use most of our energy for the little things in life, for the non-essentials. Or rather, we have set up our world so that we need to perform lots of non-essential activities in order to maintain said world. Let’s see, we need to use a lot of energy (dig some ore to make into components of a car and the roads, work at a particular job) that will allow us to drive to the supermarket to buy something like food which we then need to store, prepare and cook in order to eat. The last bit is the only one truly essential. The rest is inefficient at the best of times. We have less leisure than the animals we don’t want to compare ourselves with. We ruin our health by specializing more and more when I believe we were meant to be generalists. We also think this is normal and pity the ones who don’t have the “conveniences” we do.

And yet we dream of the simple life. Which wasn’t that simple, as it was brought home to me by reading to the little one about prehistoric life.

Because I am not really complaining as such… my rant is more around the wastage of energy. So maybe what I am looking for is a simpler life. Yeah, I want to have my cake and eat it, too! I want to spend less time (oh, the links between energy and time need another blog article for sure!) for the basic needs ; that means having shelter, water and food close to home, being knowledgeable about health care, paying taxes for the systems I use. Basically I want to arrange my life so that I have most of the conveniences but not so much of the consumption.

So that I can concentrate more on being human…

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Beauty

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You know that assumption you are making when you have a little knowledge and it seems like a lot of knowledge and you don’t know what/that you don’t know?

No? Let me elucidate

I was browsing in an op shop, as you do I saw this painting, of a girl looking into the distance from a window, over a body of water. It caught my eye because of the simplicity and the beautiful lines and the colour (blue). So I picked it up and got the shock of the day when I saw the signature: Salvador Dali. No, I didn’t think I got an original, it was just that as a young teenager I read his autobiography and saw some of his more famous works, and there was not much of what I would call ordinary in either Which meant that I thought a mad genius could only possibly create the same type of work over an entire career. Presumptuous, much?

So I bought the painting; it will join the growing body of paintings and prints and art books that start to clutter my house. And I started considering beauty.

I make this difference between natural and human made beauty. A quirk, I am sure, but one that sees me in rapture seeing mountains but indifferent to paintings of the same. Or loving the description of Yorkshire moors in “The secret garden” but unsure whether I would like them if I actually saw them… I plan to put this to the test one day!

It’s difficult when you can’t describe beauty. Words come easy for paintings and books and people and nature. Music though… I just can’t find them. And I can’t get into theatre, although I have watched several plays on TV that have changed my life… to see the play on the stage with other people around feels embarrassing – another quirk 🙂

I pay attention to beauty. It has never occurred to me not to, probably because I started young. I had help, of course. My house growing up had art books and stamps and china and crystal. No, we didn’t have that much and not luxury items as such, but enough to look through a porcelain plate to the translucent world beyond. Enough to listen to the sound of crystal. Enough to figure out I really like figurative art. And then again, I lived in a country that had both natural and human made beauty galore (ugliness, too, just for comparison). So it wasn’t difficult to admire fields of wheat with poppies, corn flowers and corn cockle. Or a crisp winter’s day with hoar frost sparkling under a bewilderingly blinding sky. Or cathedrals with avenues of scented roses, perfect for a best perfume competition. Or paintings that would move one to inspiration. The first blooming tree in spring, the lime green new foliage of oaks, magnolias in the inner courtyard of the university, night near the sea and people when you get to know them… and still so much more to see, so much more beauty to experience!

A story I once read said that that elves were immortal because they fed on beauty…

History

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I was somewhat confused last week for a couple of days. They were not good days, to be fair. I was walking in the old part of my town, where houses sit in quaint or highly maintained beauty. I like old houses, although I wouldn’t necessarily want to live in one. I love the quality of materials, the ornate details, the spacious feel of them, the established gardens. I wouldn’t want to take care of one by myself though, they were not meant for it and I would end up resenting it.

But I digress…

I was confused because here I was, watching history, surrounded by it, and yet I longed for history with everything in me, until it was painful. It took a lot of walking and analysing to figure out that, like beauty in another article, it was the degree of history, for want of a better word, that I was getting all muddled up about. Let’s see if I can explain.

I live in a very young country, set on very young land. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy living here and there is something to be said about the rebellious certainty of youth, children and teenagers alike. When I arrived here, I was in human years a bit older than this country. But human years being what they are, I am now much older than this country. A different generation already. Hence part of my discontent. From peer I feel now like a parent, wanting to guide, to teach, to shelter. If you have teenagers you know how well that will go down

I am grumbling, I know. There is nothing to be done, there is no substitute for time and experience both. So there is no fault. It’s just that, human years being what they are, I will be long gone before anything changes, and that is annoying

The confusion I felt was exactly this generation gap. The houses I was admiring are old in human years alone, and even then just barely. The history I was longing and yearning for goes a lot further back. Not just in human history, but sheer age of the land. Something to lean on to without feeling guilty I suppose

I can see only two ways forward. No, I am not going to get over myself. Denying a need does not a content human being make!

First of all I can get closer to the natural world of this country, especially as represented in the myths and legends of the native people. There is, after all, a time line of nature that might even be called permanence in our language.

The second thing I can do is travel to a place that has the history I need. Like burnt out execs blobbing in an all-inclusive resort I can also go to get my fill of history in older countries set on older land.

Sounds simple and in a way it is… now for the waiting until money and other things line up… maybe start with a passport as my Christmas present?

Mountain

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I grew up on the plains, near the river. I know the impossibly wide stretches of land that call the eyes to reach further, and then further still.

I live a few minutes from the sea. I know the foam of the waves giving shape to the wind, and the reflections of the sky in the water.

I want to plant a forest. I know the way the canopy breaks up the sunlight and the branches fluttering their leaves make me tip my head up and name their colours.

But I am mountain people. Born as I was, growing up as I did, living as I do, with the plans that I have… that has never changed. I remain of the mountains, and the mountains are calling.

One in particular, the one nearby, is in many ways a representative. I always think of this mountain as masculine. It’s a volcano, therefore younger than most mountains I have seen. Much, much younger than the mountains I always longed for. But he allowed me a home, and thus became the axis of my life. Loyalty and awe started it, then a better understanding therefore love grew alongside those. Confidence, too, now that I think of it.

I am happy today, and walking fast to contain the feeling (at least in public), I was watching this mountain. The snow glowed pink in the sunset, then faded into blue. The beauty replaced the human aloneness, that sharp tone that gives happiness its actual power. Beauty beyond humanity however, notwithstanding the eyes that measured it. And yet I was happy, so I couldn’t think of myself as lacking beauty – a human quirk, I am sure 🙂

So I talked quietly and acknowledged that in my mortal pride I can still recognize the degree of beauty we’re talking about.

You see, I have always felt this mountain as alive and awake and aware. Powerful, oh yes, and sacred to its original people. Not suffering fools gladly, and very much particular about the people who are allowed to climb. With sacred springs and odd far-seeing faces, with a terrible temper and a pleasant disposition 🙂

Whimsy, but then symbols are allowed for the people who choose them.

I am living here, near this beautiful mountain.

I am trying my wings around him, wobbly flight then sure gliding. There will be many more mountains. In my native country, I hope. In places I read about and love, with mountains so old that even myths are becoming new stories again. In places where autumn cloaks the mountains in colours that reach into the soul. I will see his brother through the drifts of sakura flowers.

And then I will come back, and the first sighting after the long travel will be the same:

Beautiful

Calling

Home

Person

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For a blog like this an article on persons seems a bit superfluous, don’t you think? And yet as I find myself musing on the things that matter to me and the relationship of each to the people I interact with I find myself trying to define humanity, you know what I mean? Or rather, describe humanity. Even more precise, describe this particular human. Which begs the question: is there a way to generalize? Is there a definition of “person” or “people” that everybody will agree with? Methinks…. Not! Especially because we are, to quote a well-known phrase, “unique, just like everybody else”.

Our definition of person depends on many variables like culture, ethnicity, era, religion etc. It seems not only impossible, but downright foolish to try and unify those as we are self-evident, like time. Except that we find exceptions (fetus, child, racially different human, non-physical beings, animals, rivers….) based on the variables described above so we are anything BUT self-evident. Or we are self evident to ourselves but not so to others and vice-versa. We are usually self-evident to our own groups but even that is not fool-proof – think children and decision making

Some general ideas: we are people when we live and behave like other people (feral children and psychopaths?), we are people because we are born so (apes and corporations?), we are people because we can make decisions (in a coma and women?)… you get the gist, for every definition, for every right granted, there are exceptions and they all sound oh so logical.

What to do, what to do?

It may be that the problem lies with the words like “definition”, with our desire for things to be clear-cut, once and for all, fixed. It may lie with our brain’s perceived inability to deal with change and uncertainty – although that is highly debatable. It has to do with the complexity of our worlds where systems and laws and policies and procedures and beliefs and biases account for more and more of our very lives.

I think it’s time for fluidity. We can both be human and grow into it. We can accept a river is important enough to count as one of us. We can continue to talk about it around the dinner table not just in obscure journals: is Puppy Dog a person? How about that gorilla or that dolphin? What makes humans human? What makes humans and non-humans persons? Are aliens persons? How about robots and clones and embryos? The key word is talk. Another key word is acceptance. My little one may not think our cat is a person, but many a people might disagree with that.

In my books relying on self-evidence is dangerous because it perpetuates ignorance. Even though I have been, am and will be, this second and forever…

Opposite

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Set against? Sounds quite divisive… and I have an issue with that! But there is a line between enemy and difference, and it’s that line that I wouldn’t mind travelling on. I am talking about people, you know, and more specifically about the line between the individual and the social creature. What are the sacrifices? How far should we go? Where do we stop? What do we expect from others?

It comes as no surprise that we live in the world of people, made by people for people’s purposes. Which people, from when and what price this world I will discuss shortly. Suffice it to say that making a living alone on a deserted island (Scotland, anybody? Or maybe the Pacific) is very rare and suits a very few of us. Most people live close to other people, in distance if not in spirit.

And chances are that if you live close to people sooner or later you will bump against certain rules, many of them of the negative sort (don’t…). Provided you don’t have certain health conditions, you are made aware of those rules since when you’re born. They shape your life, whether you will it or not, whether you respect them or not. They become part of you. So when you meet someone who doesn’t have precisely the same rules, you are made aware of difference.

Of course the above is too simplistic by orders of magnitude. The factors that influence our lives are many and complex, the relationship between them is complicated at the best of times. We give the rules different names and different powers and different weights.

But the individual questions remain the same. What is the price I will have to pay to be part of this social group? How much of who I am do I need to restrain, renounce or defend in order to belong? How do I make that choice and will I be satisfied with what is left? Is it worth it? Yes, I am aware that the social contract theory is not the be all and end all of the universe 🙂

Then you get into the self-esteem questions: am I not likeable the way I am? Am I good enough now or do I have to whittle a little bit more of myself?

The funny thing is many of us find our peers, our family by choice, based on our individuality. We create clubs, we have coffees and dinners together, we go for walks together. But remember that Clavell quote about the three different hearts of people? The obvious one (shown to the world), the closed one (shown to few), the secret one (shown to no one)…

I am running out of my self imposed space 🙂 I wanted to write about the weight the social factor has on the individual. I wanted to write that the secret face deserves to at least be acknowledged by the individual, not subsumed to the social. I wanted to write about inflexible systems that crush difference and try to fit the person in rather than become fit for the person. I wanted to write about rights (freedom?) and lifestyles.

I was watching “Moana” the other day. I am not the only one whose heart strings were tweaked by her breathless “we were voyagers!”

And I was thinking of the old adage, that if a human wants to live in a tree, we must make sure that the tree is fit for human habitation 🙂

Is there a difference? Or enmity?

Senses

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It is an interesting thing to discover how many senses we have, whether distinct or not. I was even more interested about multi-sensory integration but that subject proved a bit dry, whereas it is anything but when you experience it – I’ll stick with experience, if I may!

But what I found the most interesting of all is the link not only with other senses (official or not), but how senses link with volition, memory, anticipation, expectation and a few other things to create a life form that colours the gloomiest of years. This is what you may share with friends if what you’re after is a deep philosophical discussion about what is normal

Sight is perhaps the first sense one thinks of. It may also be the sense most linked to memory and pleasure. It can be educated (“look where you want to go, not at the other driver”, thank you, my friend) and indulged (how many photo albums did you say you have? No, it doesn’t matter if they’re virtual!). And the anticipation of seeing mountains used to make my tummy roil in a most genuine manner…. I love mountains, you know, and I used to see them only once a year.

Hearing is the next best thing in my opinion and I am not alone – think Sean Connery and your absolute favourite piece of music. And now imagine your body getting ready to dance and the hollow feeling inside that tells you the music is there to replace whatever imperfect organs you might have been born with.

Smell is an odd one. So necessary when it comes to food, so distinctly specific about its preferences (my limits are durian and coriander leaf/cilantro). But I also remember dancing close to a man I liked and respected with good qualities like strength and laughter…. And thinking “he is not mine, he doesn’t smell mine”. Which, of course, makes me the type who carries a small piece of carton with the fragrance of a loved one… even though it is not the same, never the same!

Taste (and flavour) is quite direct in its own way. Orange juice, tomato-based sauces, hot tea with milk and sugar, chocolate… the small bursts of pleasure that can accumulate in fireworks explosions, Ratatouille style… and the odd impulse to bite chubby infant calves or a lover’s shoulder.

And let’s not forget touch. Velvet and silk, soft flower petals, whipped cream, pet fur, starchy linen, mossy boulders, tree trunks and warm sand, popping bubble wrap, ticklish feather dusters… but also the invisible desire for human touch. Children die or fail to thrive without it, we seem to crave it even when we’re pretty convinced we don’t need it. But Virginia Satir said it best: “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”

What’s your number?