Much thinking lately about Time and age cohorts, bringing to mind a painting (by John Faed, 1851) which I have as a print, formerly framed and long ago hung in some Nova Scotia parlour, sporting the title

Shakespeare und sein Zeitgenossen

It shows a fictional/imaginary meeting at the Mermaid Tavern of everybody who was anybody in London literary circles around 1600 or so. Think of them as a cohort, sharing time and space for a few years (moments?). Wikipedia decodes the Dramatis Personæ:

(from left in back) Joshua Sylvester, John Selden, Francis Beaumont,
(seated at table from left) William Camden, Thomas Sackville, John Fletcher, Sir Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, John Donne, Samuel Daniel,
Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh, the Earl of Southampton, Sir Robert Cotton, and Thomas Dekker.

But how did I get to Time? The starting point was a Question posed by John a fortnight ago:

The Buddha said that everything is always changing and the leading science agrees. And we like change (no more virus, please). At the same time, we don’t want change (I want to stay healthy and active). We seem to live caught in a tension between wanting change and resisting change. How do we each navigate this tension, how do we resist change (if we do) and how do we try to encourage change? What changes do we like and what changes do we fight against, despite the Buddha’s admonition that resisting change is a primary source of our suffering, and the claim of the Borg that resistance is futile?

So I fell to wondering when it was that I realized that I was a student of change—that I wanted to follow and study the process and dynamics of changes in the world around me, but perhaps it was in my second year at Harvard, though I can't find specific examples until fall of 1963, when I began to see myself as a student of photography, and became engaged with the history of the technology and medium. By the summer of 1964 I was (that is, we were) involved with photography of architecture and the living city around us, via friends who were studying what was then called "city planning" (in the Graduate School of Design, GSD). And then I got a progress photographer gig on the State Street Bank building. And we wandered the city, looking for the photographic material. But so far as I remember, almost nothing of change was part of most of my anthropology classes. But I wasn't very committed to most of my courses, except for Cora Du Bois' Southeast Asia classes (in my third year), and my most important contact with anthropology-the-discipline was working as a research assistant to Bob Textor, helping him prepare the vastness of a computer-printout book summarizing the findings of an array of cross-cultural comparisons: a matrix of 400 ethnic units worldwide, coded according to 256 variables, and then the variables crossed with one another, and the statistically significant crossings presented as 2 x 2 tables...

Sarawak during the 65-67 Peace Corps years presented vast opportunities to think about Change. We were there as a part of Development, the bringing into the modern world of rural people who, 150 or so years before, had been ungoverned. Besides spending a lot of time on Sarawak history (or at least the British version), we helped the process of building a new village, to resettle 350 families from their former longhouse communities and turn them into rubber-growing peasants. Development. Progress. Modernization. And so I arrived at the Question of the effects upon people of changes imposed upon them, and how to study that, how to make sense of what I was witness to, in an anthropological sort of way.

Textor was at Stanford, the anthropologist in a program in International Development Education, in Stanford's School of Education. I was interested in Development, sure enough, and thought that an education system slant on Development would be a reasonable path to ... well, that was just it. To what? Two years into that, I realized that working for some foundation that had a contract with a government to do something with the nation's educational system... simply wasn't going to work. Recall that this is 1967-1968. Stanford was at once a very radical and a very conservative campus, deeply engaged with the military/industrial world; the Vietnam War was raging; San Francisco's hippie culture was everywhere, and The Whole Earth Truck Store was literally just down the street. And dope [that is, cannabis] was readily available (a very wide range of dope-like substances was in theory available, but I was disinclined to explore them).

It was during those Stanford years (1967-1972) that my focus upon Development transmuted to the study of Systems in the dynamic sense, and thence, via many many nights of talk with several close friends and feeding deeply at The Whole Earth trough, to a focus on Regional Systems, space-time (that is, diachronic geography), transformations. Those things projected me into a dissertation research proposal that found me landed in my Field Site, the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, in 1972.

Two blog posts capture a good bit of this: Gnawing on the bones of the past and What Kittens?

Note that in all of that most of my stance was as student, observer of change, much concerned with process and consequence, time series, dynamics, landscape changes... an observer, but not really a participant.


And this just in from Out There: Did a mega drought topple empires 4,200 years ago? from Nature


During blizzard time, 29i22, these appeared:

Zhuang minority

The Zhuang are China's largest minority by far—over 18 million at last count. That being the case, why aren't they more prominent? What has happened to this minority reveals a lot about shifts in China's policies toward its non-Han nationalities.

Amazon reviews of Sirens of Titan:

Vonnegut is a unique writer, with a disturbing gift for raising uncomfortable questions. Sometimes science fiction rises to the level of consciousness-raising. This is one of those books. In some strange and unfathomable way, this book changed how I perceive things. Vonnegut can have that effect. He is a unique writer, with a disturbing gift for raising uncomfortable questions. What is "equality"? Are things predestined? How do people recover from intense mental conditioning? What is identity?

Unk is everyman, striving to find the courage to ask these questions, and act on the answers. Rumfoord is his opposite; a disembodied person stretched between the stars in a chrono-synclastic infundibulum, like a quantum-mechanical "virtual particle", who founds his own religion in which Unk is the arch-villain, and who aims to reduce everyone to the lowest common denominator in the name of equality.

This is a stunning book, Kurt Vonnegut's best. Also check out Cat's Cradle, his other great novel.

The Sirens of Titan is an unusually sprawling work by Vonnegut that manages to fit a man and his dog's inadvertent travels through time and space, Earth invaded by Mars and the possible answer to that age old question, "Why are we here?" Of course, if you are hoping for an uplifting answer to that question, then you shouldn't read this or any book by Kurt Vonnegut.

In Sirens, Winston Niles Rumfoord, a wealthy playboy, takes his privately funded spaceship, along with his beloved pooch and drives it straight into a chrono-synclastic infundibulum, for no better reason than to see what it will do. As Vonnegut would say, this is what happened - Rumford and his dog become space/time travelers who reappear whenever their waveforms intercept Earth or some other similar obstacle in the vast vacuum of space. Since this time-space chrono-synclastic infundibulum allows Rumfoord to see everything that ever has happened or will happen, it allows him to create a new religion complete with 100% guaranteed predictions and miracles.

This religion, The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent, is merely a launching point for Vonnegut to troll his usual themes of human suffering, the search for meaning in an indifferent world and to make pointed political and social observations.

Unlike many writers, Vonnegut doesn't feel the need to create pseudo-science to explain why the things that happen do so. Rather, he just says it happened and here's what occurs because of it. A very clean way to get right to the point and keep the narrative moving along.

The book is extremely funny, oddly moving and sticks with you long after you get to the end where our lives are summed up in a manner that very few would anticipate. This is one of my favorite books by Vonnegut, along with Breakfast of Champions, and is well worth reading and then passing on to friends.

from Goodreads

CHRONO-SYNCLASTIC INFUNDIBULA—Just imagine that your Daddy is the smartest man who ever lived on Earth, and he knows everything there is to find out, and he is exactly right about everything, and he can prove he is right about everything. Now imagine another little child on some nice world a million light years away, and that little child's Daddy is the smartest man who ever lived on that nice world so far away. And he is just as smart and just as right as your Daddy is. Both Daddies are smart, and both Daddies are right. Only if they ever met each other they would get into a terrible argument, because they wouldn't agree on anything. Now, you can say that your Daddy is right and the other little child's Daddy is wrong, but the Universe is an awfully big place. There is room enough for an awful lot of people to be right about things and still not agree. The reason both Daddies can be right and still get into terrible fights is because there are so many different ways of being right. There are places in the Universe, though, where each Daddy could finally catch on to what the other Daddy was talking about. These places are where all the different kinds of truths fit together as nicely as the parts in your Daddy's solar watch. We call these places chrono-synclastic infundibula. The Solar System seems to be full of chrono-synclastic infundibula. There is one great big one we are sure of that likes to stay between Earth and Mars. We know about that one because an Earth man and his Earth dog ran right into it. You might think it would be nice to go to a chrono-synclastic infundibulum and see all the different ways to be absolutely right, but it is a very dangerous thing to do. The poor man and his poor dog are scattered far and wide, not just through space, but through time, too. Chrono (kroh-no) means time. Synclastic (sin-class-tick) means curved toward the same side in all directions, like the skin of an orange. Infundibulum (in-fun-dib-u-lum) is what the ancient Romans like Julius Caesar and Nero called a funnel. If you don’t know what a funnel is, get Mommy to show you one."

from LitCharts

Chrono-synclastic infundibula, mysterious spirals that exist in space, represent the vast unknowable expanse of the universe and the predetermined nature of existence. They are never fully explained in the novel, with the narrator claiming that they are too complex to be easily summarized and indicating that human scientists still do not really understand them. According to the novel, the age of human space exploration is halted by the discovery of chrono-synclastic infundibula. No one knows what will happen if a human enters them, and thus governments ban humans from travelling through space. However, Winston Niles Rumfoord ignores this ban and, taking his dog, Kazak, with him, flies his spaceship directly into a particular chrono-synclastic infundibulum that stretches between Earth and Mars. The result is that Rumfoord and Kazak become trapped in a kind of time warp. Being inside a chrono-synclastic infundibulum enables Rumfoord to see into the past and future; inside the spirals, all the different, subjective, and conflicting versions of truth fit together perfectly. It is through the seemingly omniscient power he gains within the chrono-synclastic infundibulum that Rumfoord is able to realize that everything that happens in the universe is predetermined, which indicates that there is no such thing as free will. At the same time, it eventually becomes clear that Rumfoord never achieves full omniscience, as he is not able to predict that one day a sunspot will interrupt the chrono-synclastic infundibulum he is in, flinging him and Kazak off into the oblivion of space. In their mysteriousness, then, chrono-synclastic infundibulum represent hubris and the limits of human knowledge.


Fifty years ago:

rasputin 1971 NY Times 1972


this just in via John-the-son, from Laura Ann Pustarfi's dissertation:

...we have created systems of dominance and resource extraction that have led to environmental destruction, deforesting the planet. Forests are carbon sinks and by sequestering carbon directly affect climate change, which as a planet-wide crisis, urgently requires response.[3] Human activities are extinguishing animal and plant species and, in particular, razing forests at astounding rates of deforestation. Impacts on global forests are intertwined with cultural systems of oppression and colonialization, and this destructive impulse is connected to the intellectual tradition that fostered the Western paradigm. Trees and forests are at risk planet-wide, and the scale and weight of destruction continues to expand. The way we see trees, particularly in Western culture, is representative of the larger trend of environmental destruction worldwide. Although thinkers and scientists have been sounding the alarm for decades, ecological degradation continues to worsen and expand. Our current planetary-wide issues, particularly our changing climate, are forcing new ways of thinking about our impact on the Earth. Though hotly debated, many claim we have moved into a new geological epoch characterized by human-born changes: the Anthropocene.[4] This planet-wide destruction is presenting us with new challenges that do not conform to our previous experience, putting us under duress to find novel solutions. While technology and scientific knowledge have advanced, the scope of the problem continues to outpace both our technical abilities and political will.

This project seeks to revision, or see again, trees and our human relationship to trees in the Western paradigm. Through studying our lived experience of trees, we can better understand our interconnections to nonhuman others. Thinkers Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Joanna Macy provide a frame for this work of revisioning. Paleontologist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, in the preface to his masterwork, The Human Phenomenon, tells us he wants to help us see.[5] For Teilhard, this seeing is the development and increase of consciousness which is essential to human being and our continued, collective growth. As our consciousness increases, the way we interact with the world changes, and his project suggests that the world can be made different if we envision differently. Buddhist teacher, philosopher, and activist Joanna Macy, following social thinker David Korten, calls our moment the Great Turning, our opportunity to transition to a life-sustaining society. She identifies three inter-related dimensions of the Great Turning including holding actions, structural change, and the shifting of consciousness.[6] Holding actions postpone the impending destruction through activist behaviors such as boycotts, protests, and civil disobedience, and structural change involves the slow transference to new societal institutions that promote sustainable culture. Along with these two concrete dimensions, a shift in consciousness is necessary to support the societal changes necessary to move past destruction, and involves reconsidering the underpinnings of our thought, especially our thought about ourselves and our relationships to the non-human world. Macy calls this aspect of the Great Turning a "cognitive, spiritual, and perceptual revolution."[7] Following this call for a shift in consciousness, this dissertation is an inquiry into the way in which our changing, complex relationships to trees illuminate a broader transformation of consciousness currently underway and catalyzed by environmental crisis.