Archive for March 31st, 2012

Water On The Brain

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

My neighbors down the street had a party today and invited me over as we’ve become good friends in the years that I’ve been here.

There were quite a few people there, a few of whom I’d met before, and they all had one thing in common. They were all boring as hell. Don’t get me wrong, they all seem to be pretty nice people, they just don’t have much of anything to say.

The parties there always consist of lots of food and lots of beer and discussions of dogs, big fish, work and vehicles, and what people did when they were drunk. That’s pretty much it. They don’t know much of anything about any form of science or history and don’t want to talk about it, and they’re happy that way.

I couldn’t tell you why Washington people are that way, but they mostly are. I joined the local rockhound club expecting to meet interesting, outdoorsy type people who are enthusiastic about mineralology, geology and so forth. What I found was a lot of insular people who were there only to get in on the field trips for collecting agates and such, and had about zero interest in each other at all. A few of them were actually friends with each other but the rest had nothing to say to each other. The meetings were amazingly boring.

People in Washington state have few interests. They go to work and come home. They drink a lot, smoke a lot of pot, go fishing sometimes, a few of them go hunting, and that’s pretty much their life. Maybe it’s the rain that comes down for 8 months out of the year that’s stifled their brains but I wonder just how much brains they have to begin with.

Washington state is an Obama, Liberal Left state. I didn’t realize that when I moved here but it’s sure apparent now. There are plenty of people here who despise him but the majority are for him. Of course, I am moving to California and we all know what the political climate is there, so I don’t expect to be surrounded by brilliant, inquiring minds there either. But at least I’ll stay dry.

Gobekli Tepe

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

12,000 years ago, a group of people built a large village in Turkey. First excavated in 1995, it’s age and much more has been determined, though excavations continue and discoveries are still being made.

The oldest known village ever discovered was found in France and is 120,000 years old! Yet the beginnings of our recorded history date back only about 3500 years. This may change with Gobekli Tepe, as only about 5 % of the village has been excavated.

The sophistication of the great many carvings found, the terrazzo floors, the precision work on monuments and other carved stone objects is amazing, especially since the archaeologists so far believe these people to have been hunter-gatherers who had no agriculture, no pottery and no use of the wheel.

Somehow I doubt this early conclusion by them, as 11,500 year old pottery has been found in graves not far off.  That they haven’t found any at the village site so far may not mean anything. There’s no references yet to a midden, or dump, where the people would have disposed of their trash, and for every village there’s always a dump, and that’s where the pottery shards would be.

This has pushed the liklihood of an advanced human civilization back beyond 12,000 years, as the level of technology that produced this village certainly was not developed on the spot by a tribe of hunter-gatherers. To 15,000 years? 30,000 years?

That village in France, 120,000 years old, built by modern humans, had fireplaces and wood huts framed up by burying poles in the earth to form the walls. How long had that technology been around? How long have modern humans really been around? So far, the date’s been pushed back to about 200,000 years ago now and it keeps getting edged back further as more discoveries keep being made.

Older and older cities keep being found, often through analysis of satellite data, as details on the ground can often only be seen from high above. The oldest city was thought to be Jericho, at 7,800 years old, until another older one was found in Mesopotamia at 9000 years old. Now we have Gobekli Tepe at 12,000 years old and far more advanced in many aspects than the other, newer ones.

I would not be surprised if an advanced civilization were found that dated to 50,000 years ago. The Earth covers itself and buries itself. Wind blows and dust rises and settles and solidifies, and forgotton cities are soon mounds of dirt. We’ve just begun to realize the possibilities of our own past, and who knows what we may yet discover?

A Perspective On The Overload

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

In 1949, a little 3 year old girl fell down a well in the town of San Marino, California. Her name was Kathy Fiscus and her rescue effort captured the rapt attention of all America. A lot of people had TV sets by that time and her rescue effort was almost the only thing being broadcast. Progress reports on the effort dominated the radio.

Thousands of people came from towns and cities near and far away to aid in the rescue. There were cranes and drilling rigs from a dozen towns and Hollywood crews brought in 50 floodlights. When the power died the second night, people aimed their cars at the rigs and turned on their headlights. Hundreds of car batteries went dead that night.

When the rescuers finally reached her, she had died, and the tragedy of her death inspired a country-western song that was recorded in separate versions by the top country singers of the day. Three movies were inspired by her tragic death including one by Woody Allen.

Now, there are a dozen Kathy Fiscus-type stories a day and no one pays much attention to any of them.  A brief mention and then they’re gone, to be replaced an hour later by the next horror or tragedy or disaster. 

I know people who live back in the mountains, in remote areas, my former neighbors, who have no televisions, no computers, and probably don’t listen to the radio much, either. As one of them put it, “I’m not on the information super highway and I never will be”.

I can deal with it because it doesn’t overwhelm me. I remember when they were trying to save little Kathy, I was only 10 years old but I was hoping for her just as hard as anyone else and I still have the sense of human community, the perspective, the ability we were all given to see things with passion, with the full sense of “there but for God’s grace go I”.

That’s what’s been lost on the information super highway. Too much information, loaded on too fast for any of us to need, or use, or assimilate. Our sense of community has been buried under the massive weight of global input. Too many events, too much happening, too much everything.

You know what we need? We need 12-step programs to help us tune out, to get free of Information Addiction. We need a National Day of No News. Every month. One day a month when all the media shuts down, when even blogging is illegal, when TV and radio stations are off the air. We need to shut off the incessant stream of blah blah blah that we won’t remember anything of tomorrow, for at least one day every month, and get our perspective back.

I know, we need other things too, this is no cure for the world, but it sure would be a nice break.