Monday, April 26, 2021

Lawless Complexity

One reason why societies decline—and are then restored to life by revolutions—is lawless complexity. No. I’m not against complexity. But there is a lawful and a lawless variety. What lawless complexity is like is all around us—mostly on cable news. Each one of us, with our organs, muscles, lungs, hearts, circulatory systems—we’re lawful complexity. And woe to us when it stops obeying laws.

By the time the French revolution erupted—and we learned to spell “guillotine”—the country had become paralyzed. One simple example was the salt tax. If you wished to travel, every time you entered a new county you had to buy enough salt to last a lifetime. Nobody had that kind of money if travelling across a region—or paying bribes to avoid the tax. Paralysis. And the salt tax was just one of many such institutional knots that tied France into immobility.

Napoleon came and made order. All such nonsense was wiped from the blackboard. One faith, one law, one king—well, not a king yet. The same process happened in Russia where misgovernment had stopped Russian life in tsarist times.

A hint of what lawless complexity is like before everything stops is shown us daily by the Wall Street Journal. Companies that make things or provide services no longer appear very often on WSJ’s pages. What fills those pages are companies that buy and sell fluctuating moods. The companies are into futures—even if the future’s just tomorrow. They sell what many think will happen. What actually happens no longer matters. Futures, futures. If the future looks rosy that faith will build a Matterhorn of paper values—and they might disappear tomorrow. That mountain will be built even if millions are starving now. Conversely, a grim future might fill a Grand Canyon with losses even if everyone’s otherwise fine.

Revolutions work if lawless complexity stops all motion in a country or a region. But if the entire civilization has grown so complex that nothing moves any longer, the change is more profound and takes centuries to fix. Wait and see. As for us elders, we’ll see—but we won’t wait….

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Blinking Lights

Last night our overhead lamps in the house blinked out for a second or two and then came back on. This repeated with random pauses over ten minutes. Oddly, the plugged-in devices, including the TV, were unaffected.

I went outside to see if perhaps a bobcat had taken a bite into our main wire. No bobcat trail; no great broken branch either. Went downstairs to check the fuses. The fuses were peacefully in  the ON position.

Now this is a minor household hiccup; no harm done… Why then do I bother recounting it? Well, in my current mode of commenting on old age, I want to note that such events, signaling something unexpected (like hassling with workmen on the telephone, etc.), are a major fright if you live in a manner where even the rise and set of  the sun are somewhat traumatic (e.g. signaling dressing and undressing), never mind the moon’s eccentric coming and going—or NOT coming and going. Think I’m kidding? Just you wait!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Our Physicality

It is odd to say this but true: Through most of life when we are most active physically we least notice that we’re animals; in old age our physicality becomes quite evident…perhaps because our soul is slowly detaching from the body.

Indeed a soul-body unit is characteristic of ordinary human life. That notion too is odd until at some point we realize that what we are is not our bodies. A little later we also realize that we’re our bodies’ prisoners.

In youth we never think it odd that we are clothed; it’s what we see everywhere—people clothed. Pondering life in old age, it’s more obvious that we’re a very peculiar species of ape, a species captured by souls and transformed into a kind of hybrid creature neither animal nor spirit.

One might argue that what in Christianity we call The Fall is precisely this temporary unity between animals and spirits—temporary because it ends. No. We’re not really physical. But until we return from this Eden to the Sky, it will be an issue, initially unnoticed, later rather to the front of attention. I better change my posture—my back, you know…

Friday, April 16, 2021

Weather Report

We’re usually only interested in weather immediately over us—unless we’re travelling today to another location. If so, and we’re driving and it’s winter, we will want to know about the weather along our chosen route. Will there be snow on the way?

A much smaller number, particularly those working in the weather business or have agriculturally sensitive businesses all over the geography, are much more interested in weather patterns on a larger scale and over longer periods—say decades.

The Wall Street Journal’s map shows parts of Canada and the entire United States. We look at it to see how our own area is forecast. Detroit itself is in a green-colored region (meaning colder) and just touching a region to the east which will have showers Buffalo to Boston and reaching down to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.  The western regions and the southern range, extending from Vancouver down to Lost Angeles, and from there around the southern border all the way Richmond on the other side, are colored reddish because they’re warmer. No image of the jet stream; not even a hint of how the North Pole or Antarctica are faring.

Probably the smallest number of people is keenly interested in global weather, its patterns, and overall trends. These signal global warming—but global warming will not really touch me today. If it did, and more or less daily, public support of changes in our carbon consumption would be present and growing.

The small picture, the large picture. But I’ve said all that above to make another point. We know as little about global weather trends as we know about historic change. One might liken weather to history. It might “rain” here but not elsewhere. The very few aware of such matters as cyclic history—as presented to us by people like Arnold J. Toynbee (A Study of History), Oswald Spengler (The Decline of the West), and Pitirim Sorokin (Social and Cultural Dynamics and, in a shorter version, The Crisis of Our Age)—have the best ideas of history as a system and where today’s history  will carry us sooner or later.

In one’s advanced years it is good to know not only about weather globally and history cyclically but also the ranges of reality well beyond either. Can anybody help me see the weather locally at Heaven’s Gate. I can leave knowing weather in Heaven more generally to a later time.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Refuge Harbor

In my last post I focused on Yves Paret, who died on the day of his wife’s, Madeleine’s, funeral. Madeleine was buried; Yves was cremated. Such choices of final disposal are real issues for those of our age group. Indeed, my father was buried, my mother cremated; going in different directions is not uncommon—at least not in our family writ large. The choice tends to reflect personal traits. My father was a traditionalist; the well-designed grave stone was, as it were, his last acknowledgement of social status; he valued standing in the world, and his stone still stands there today in Kansas City.

My mother drew her inspiration from nature and art; she was dynamic even in her passing. She’d go on as a flame, her residues ash—but with the wish, often expressed while she still lived, that her ashes should find their rest in water and, presumably, keep moving in rhythm with nature’s never-ending stir.


We’ve never lived on or near the ocean; if we had, we’d now remember Mother’s resting place as the Pacific or, preferably, the Atlantic. Preferably? Yes. We’re thinking of the Gulf streams motion. But, no ocean for her. Years after her passing she found her place in Lake Huron; if not the ocean then at least the Great Lakes.


The place we eventually found was on the east side of the Michigan thumb. The locality was Port Sanilac, the place Refuge Harbor. We learned the name of the spot after we had strewn Mother’s ashes in the Huron. And we nodded in wistful pleasure. Refuge Harbor. After a long, hard life Mother had at last arrived. And she would have approved.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Yve's Passing

Michelle’s Father-in-law, Yves Paret, only waited until his wife was buried; then he too died to join her in that world beyond. Both had been in the same hospital but in separate wards. Yves was heavily sedated with morphine to lessen the pain of terminal cancer. Did he know his wife had died? Or didn’t he? We can’t be sure because we cannot see beyond the boundaries of this dimension. But it is perhaps meaningful that these two people, having spent a lifetime side by side, departed together holding hands—or so we see it from this side.

A time of departures is now upon us. Susie’s Rex went first. Then my younger brother Baldy. (In the next world he’ll now be older brother Baldy.) That was 2019. Spring of 2021 Madeleine and Yves. Brigitte and I are next in line. We know this—but in a casual sort of way. In one’s advanced years such things as passing become quite commonplace.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Au Revoir, Madeleine

 Speaking of old age and its ultimate consequences, we learned four or five days ago that Madelein Paret—Thierry’s mother and hence grandmother of Michelle’s children—has passed away after brief hospitalization in France. As Brigitte put it hearing this news: “Madeleine is home now.”

We barely knew the lady, but in the course of at most three visits to France we came to like her very much. The elder Parets lived (and still live) in Haguenau, a small city almost at the north-western tip of France—close enough to Germany so that Madeleine and husband Yves could speak a little German. Our meetings go back some 30 years yet produce sharp images of crowded dinners (all family) and Haguenau, the curious border town. Between then and now, we kept abreast of one another by mail and, later, Facebook.


Memory at our age: sharp enough to picture vividly aspects of events. But structured and chronological memory is week. I had to look up Haguenau in a Christmas list and then on a map. How long ago? I got there by taking our oldest grandson’s, Max’s, age today…


Requiescat in pacem, Madeleine. We’ll see you probably soon when the Earth train stops us at heaven’s gate.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Longevity – Reality and Appearance

It seems to me that deeply layered as it has become over time, materialism is one of the reasons that long life—and the longer the better—and even when it is maintained by drugs and machinery—is viewed as a highly desirable condition. A minor side-effect of that view is that some in science and medicine are laboring hard to prolong life well beyond its utmost range, say 100 years.

Long life as actually experienced by most of us in our 80s and 90s is viewed more as a burden than delight. And if the life oldsters live would extend 20, 30, or 40 years longer, we’d dread the prospect rather than celebrate it as a wonder of science.


The physical side-effects of "being old" are obviously the most evidently undesirable—but these science might mitigate. A deeper problem is boredom and disgust. The "thrillingly new"? We’ve seen it all before. The trends, the trajectories? They are obviously down. We grieve for our grandchildren’s children’s future. No medication can cure that boredom and disgust; they are caused by cultural decline; and we’re not likely to live hundreds of years longer when, perhaps culture will be reborn.


These thoughts as a starter. The subject of aging is deep. The young can’t write about it effectively. But with a little help from lots and lots of drugs and vitamins, we can.