Friday, June 1, 2007

A Fizzling Finish (and Friday Reflection)

I have worked in technology for a number of years, and really grown to like it. It is a continuing, fascinating lesson in impermanence and human frailty. Servers fail unaccountably; projects lose their direction and momentum just as management is extolling their inevitable benefits; code that worked yesterday sputters and degrades into dysfunction today. So it is perhaps only fitting that a blog should close not with a flourish but a fizzle, which is exactly what this one will be doing over the next few weeks.

A hard drive is known to last an average of 5 years. Statistics on server life show that 10 years is the most that can be expected out of a busy machine that's always on and connected. Chipsets and circuit boards are similarly short-lived.

Meanwhile, silk scrolls from the time of Lao Tzu--some two and half millennia old--are still readable; papyrus rolls from Egyptian and Greek antiquity are legible. Bound books that are hundreds of years old can still be easily read. Even I have a few books that are more than a hundred years old in my library.

I will add, however, that I also have a few floppy disks left that are over 10 years old and still readable. It's just that there aren't any computers made anymore that come equipped with the hardware to read them.

After all, it is not the physical medium of a message that makes it endure. Homer, legend has it, was a blind poet who simply sang his poems out loud to audiences. Someone or other among his listeners found enough of value in those songs of the wrath of Achilles to write them down, and someone else in turn copied these, and so on. It is doubtful that the true author of the Iliad and the Odyssey ever knew or expected that his poems would be read in other languages, thousands of years after him.

More recently, it was Lincoln who claimed that the world would "little know or long remember" the words of what has become one of the most quoted, printed, and memorized pieces of political oratory ever. The words that deserve to endure, somehow do.

Will something--anything--of what we have written here these past three years endure? I would be willing to make a very large wager against it. A blog is, by its very nature, not the kind of writing that is meant to be remembered or cherished long after its time. Its proper voice is the casual voice of today, speaking to the events and for the people of its day. Its very quality comes from its easy digestibility, its smooth brevity and simple takeaway.

A good blog is also designed to lead the reader away from itself. We embed links into our work that we think will better enlarge or illustrate the points we are attempting to make. If you're writing an effective weblog, you are giving readers short and clear statements of fact or opinion, and leading them elsewhere for further research and experience.

Personally, I have used this blog as a laboratory and a gym: it is where I try out ideas, forms, and approaches, or simply exercise my writer's brain. I have always made an effort to do this while also delivering something useful and rewarding for the general reader. It can't be a nice experience to spend your time and energy just watching someone else work out.

Judging by our traffic, which (according to Google Analytics) remains at around a hundred visitors per day, it is possible that I have failed. The comments section is generally left bare, and the financial maintenance of the site has been a slow but continuous leak. If I were to go on walking such a treadmill while pretending there was progress, then wouldn't I be just like Bush and his handlers, or Joe Lieberman in Baghdad the other day—talking up an invisible improvement while wrapped in a flak jacket and a heavily armed squadron of men and equipment?

All right, it is true: I wouldn't. No one will die, no orphans or widows will be made from my futile postings here. So on to the real reasons: there is work to be done, life to be lived, and more books to be written. I'm getting fat, and sad to say, typing 60 words per minute does not equal 60 burnt calories per minute. The older we get, the more do our bodies ask our attention. It is time I started listening.

So I offer a final Friday Reflection, below, and you will no doubt find a sporadic post here and there between now and when the hosting period ends, in August. Like I said, it has been a valuable lesson, which is perhaps as much as we can ask of our experience. My gratitude goes out to my co-writer, Terry McKenna, who I am sure has a future in punditry, should the mainstream media ever decide that a reasoned tone of truth and eloquence would be preferable to the current climate of shrill and demonic ignorance. And I am, of course, very grateful to the few who have come here regularly to read our work.

There is a story told of the Buddha, from one of his many lifetimes before he became the Buddha. In this particular strand of his successive, merit-building reincarnations, he appears as a fellow who encounters a sick lioness with a cub. Both animals are starving and near death. The Buddha, or whatever person he was at the time, feels such compassion for the creatures that he offers his own body as meat for the mother lion. But she is too weak to even bite the arm he offers her. So the Buddha finally picks up a sharp rock, cuts his arm open, and holds it to the lioness's mouth, so she can lap up the blood from the wound. The blood of the Buddha has the desired effect of restoring energy to the mother lion, who soon recovers enough strength to kill and eat the Buddha. And thus the lioness and her cub were saved from death, and the man who gave them his life was carried further up the karmic mountain, to the brink of the summit of supreme realization.

Whether or not any such pinnacle of enlightenment is possible, I do wish for our sick, frail, and benighted democracy a visiting Buddha, who might offer it blood—but not the blood of innocents or children. Just the vital fluid of truth and autonomy.

Friday Reflection: The Message of the Bird

One day last week, during an outdoor press conference, a bird took a shit onto the President. He wiped away the blessing with his bare hand, thus prompting many comedians to marvel anew at this man's talent for the bizarre (Bill Maher wondered how Bush could imagine that he is not descended from apes).

It made me wonder how the Deluder--oops, the Decider, that is--could think that anyone is estranged from the Earth, but instead is a son of that parochial God or a daughter of this insular revolution.

We are all children of the Earth. Food, water, every sustenance and shelter known to us in our lives, comes from the Earth. No matter whether we may credit this God or that Prophet; this Messiah or that Savior; this nation or that Law with our life, there is, after all, no god but the one that lies under your fingernails after you've filled your hands with earth.

We can best love god, our nation or its people, by honoring the Earth upon which all these find their life, from which they all draw sustenance. Every life, every nation, every belief, is nourished on the grain and fruit of Earth.

So it is as our native peoples have taught us: the Earth is our Mother. And our father, and our ancestors. This is all we can be sure of; what we can all agree upon, no matter which god we may follow; what Bible we might read; or what nation's laws we may obey.

Today, our species is on a path to self-annihilation. Scientists, naturalists, and most teachers of Earth-spirit agree that this is so. Some of them have said or written that the universe will not suffer nor the Earth lose by our species' annihilation. I do not agree.

To be sure, the universe will carry on without us; there can be no disagreement on that point. The Earth, in all likelihood, will survive without us as well. But there will be diminishment of the whole, just as there is with the extinction of any species. There will be loss. The Earth-spirit will suffer; for there will be no hands left to touch the Earth, and less consciousness to love it.

The less gravitational attraction there is in the universe, the more entropy will be found. Less love, more chaos. For what reason are we born here but to add to the whole, to endow the cosmic heart with the oxygen of our uniqueness?

Therefore, if you would like to perform a ritual that will nourish god and draw its blessings, try this: dig up a small patch of earth with your bare hands, and then put your religion down in the hole you made. Bury your belief. Then, ask the Earth to complete your sacrifice, and thank it for accepting your offering. Before the end of the year, your blessing will be answered with abundance, as long as you don't wait in expectation.

This is the principle of quantum gravity in action: give ego to god, and accept the blessing of truth in return. It is how love works in the way of Nature. In fact, it works any way you choose to work with it yourself: if you elect to follow the God of the Bomb and the way of death, you may well fool the squealing infants who call themselves journalists. But the birds will not miss you.


Michael Peters said...


My one dose of sanity i can count on each day now gone as well!!!!

Please, oh, please do not stop blogging.

Shady Acres Mike said...

I will promise to write more entrioes if you promise to keep blogging.

Anonymous said...

How abouy=t writing shorter psots so it is not so much of a strain?

This way you can keep on blogging!

Brian Donohue said...

Well, you do have some customer-weighting, considering you're the only person ever click our goddam ads! I'll take it under advisement with my partner and the mascot. As you know, the final decision always rests with the cat...

Shady Acres Mike said...

Maybe you can post, with is permission of course,the weekly articles from our friend who writes for the Poughkeepsie Journal and this would save you one day of writing?

Miriam Valentin said...

No, no, no. Please don't stop blogging! Yours is the only Blog I check almost daily. Follow Shady Acres Mike's suggestion; he's on to something. I will connect you with my other Blogger friends--let's see what develops (a white Pigeon just flew by my window on the 18th floor... good sign). For your health: Flaxseed Oil and Hemp Oil.

Brian Donohue said...

OK, we've heard from the Answers in Genesis crowd. Now I'm waiting to hear from all those venture capitalists out there and their checkbooks...Who wants to invest in a New Age lefty political blog with a geek column and a black cat mascot?