The 2022 Winter Solstice image at right is my final collaboration with the extraordinary woman I had the marvelous good fortune to share a life with since our high school days in the 1960s. Throughout the six-months during which the solstice image evolved, she guided the effort with insights and inspirations around color choices, perspective, figure proportion and posture… All the fine stuff. And she poked me, mercilessly, when necessary, to eliminate contradictions – anything her sensation instincts told her was not true to the overall unity of the composition. But dearest in my recollection is her delight when something we’d noodled over together began to manifest on the screen. That’s what I will miss the most. Her delight.
The image background is adapted from Basil Valentine’s 1671 “Table of Chemical & Philosophical Characters.” We thought it would be fun to suggest a point along the arc of evolving human consciousness from which the foreground image might have spontaneously emerged. The context. And we tinkered with the parchment tone a lot, looking for a hue that seemed to push the bluish beasty upward.
The foreground image…the Sky Lizard…is a subject that has been writhing around pleasantly in my thoughts pretty much throughout my life. I wrote about some of my previous engagement with the creature in a 2012 blog post. I wonder as time passes whether I will be able to feel that with the rendering presented here I have fulfilled my responsibility to bring the unlikely being fully into the world.
I know a wonderful woman, M, who manages a machine shop. One of her employees, D, who M has known long enough to think of as a friend, frequently expressed extreme annoyance at M’s insistence that all employees must wear masks while at work. D contracted Covid and got very sick. She survived, but for many weeks after the primary symptoms subsided, she was super weak and unable to concentrate. M asked D why she had not gotten vaccinated and had not worn a mask while out and about in the world. D said she had done her research and was convinced that the Covid “scare” was a hoax, so there was no way that she was gonna catch it.
When I heard this, what especially amazed me was D’s report that she “had done her research.” What “research” could possibly satisfy someone that Covid is a hoax? It turns out the authority D had consulted was Facebook. M is a super smart person, and I’m sure anyone that works in her shop…and especially anyone she regards as a friend…could not be a complete idiot. But Facebook as the authority for how to respond to a pandemic that had already at that time killed more than a million Americans!!!!! I had to wonder, is D out of her f—ing mind? So I also “did my research” and some thoughts that occurred to me follow here.
On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. It’s tempting to speculate about the motives of the justices who pushed that ruling through. But I focus here upon what I believe to be an overt circumvention of the fundamental function of law in America.
As reported by NPR:
Writing for the court majority, Justice Samuel Alito said that the 1973 Roe ruling and repeated subsequent high court decisions reaffirming Roe “must be overruled” because they were “egregiously wrong,” the arguments “exceptionally weak” and so “damaging” that they amounted to “an abuse of judicial authority.”
For Justice Alito to speak of “an abuse of judicial authority” is ironic at best because his participation in the overturning of Roe v. Wade places him radically at odds with the core function of the Constitution, which is, I believe, to guard against tyranny.
I think the American Revolution was necessary to bring to an end the lording of one group over another. And I think the Constitution is a remarkably lucid attempt to establish a foundation upon which a society can evolve that’s primary virtue is that it guards against one group bullying and otherwise tormenting another. (Racial injustice in America remains a monumental societal failing in this regard.)
Above all other considerations, I think the initial gating factor when determining whether something is constitutional must be does it open the door for one group to impose their will upon another, which overturning Roe v. Wade absolutely does. The license to commit acts of aggression against women which that overturning has set in motion is, to my way of thinking, a horrifying example of the general drift in all aspects of human interaction toward self-indulgent sadism.
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If you haven’t already read Errabundis by Carol Budinger, I hope you will consider giving it a go. It is beautiful, original and very satisfying. It is also a deeply refreshing counterbalance to the wallow-in-meanness themes that pervade much current epic fantasy.
Errabundis is a love story on personal, social and cosmic levels. In the face of great peril, through their care and kindness, the core characters discover who they truly are and that what they do matters. Their actions not only save their world, but also change the underpinnings of all existence for the better. A fine, timely and comforting work.
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The Errabundis website
WARNING: This post contains toxic material not suitable for parents of young children or others who may wish to remain optimistic about the future.
In the last chapter of his marvelous and frightening book “Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault from within on Modern Democracy”, Tom Nichols observes:
But if we have learned anything in the opening decades of the twenty-first century, it is that people will think hard – or they will convince themselves that they have tried to do so – and still come up with incomprehensible and reckless anti-democratic conclusions … if the citizens of modern democracies were the kind of people willing to engage in the kind of honest reflection that leads to a commitment to political maturity, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in now.
My reading of Professor Nichols’s book suggests to me that he holds out hope that Americans and citizens in other democracies can still decide not to destroy themselves…that we can think their way off the road to ruin. I’m less optimistic.
The primary reason for my pessimism is that I think human consciousness, like the biological machine that carries it, continues to evolve. And that an ever-increasing number of human beings are now possessed of a form of consciousness that manifests itself in selfish and fundamentally sadistic behavior. In what follows I’ll refer to such folks as “always frustrated people” (AFPs for short).
I hypothesize that way back in time the fundamental human experience of itself was as a group, but since long before recorded history the trend in the evolution of human consciousness has been toward increased self-awareness, with the result that now LOTS of human beings experience themselves as entirely individual. These are the folks I think of as AFPs because it is inevitable that someone who experiences everything only through the lens of their own feelings and ideas must live in a state of constant frustration. They can’t have everything they want. They are constantly confronted with ideas they don’t agree with. And I’m guessing a great many of their own ideas form around the day in, day out frustration of their desires.
People who are constantly frustrated, and AFPs almost always are, seem to live in a state of perpetual anger. Since their exclusively individual experience is the only experience they know, they are unable to imagine that others’ self-experience is different. Consequently, they are certain that whether others admit it or not, everyone else is also deeply, perpetually frustrated and consumed with resentment. This assumption…this projection on others that they are all also perpetually frustrated and consumed with resentment…makes anyone who challenges them in any way “a lying, weaselly jerk who thinks he’s smarter than me, conspiring with other lying, weaselly jerks who think they are smarter than me, to try to keep me from having what I want.”