Wednesday, 19 January 2011


I am disappointed

As I stumble into my 92nd year, the hope that, by now, I would have some vital answers is fading fastly. Oh, sure, I have accumulated zillions of facts since I first started asking questions long before I embarked on my formal education in kindergarten. Although these facts include tempting clues, they fail to give me the answers I crave. Yes, I now know a little about quarks, photons, quantum, the human and other species, but my most worrisome questions remain unanswered. I feel answers are there - just out of reach.
Biologists tell me that this facility, called a Brain; or is it a Mind?; or is it Me?; is identical to all those 6 or 7 billion owned by other humans and, for that matter, similar to those in many other species. Then, why do we have so many conflicting emotions towards each other? And do I really understand what an emotion is?
I have read thousands of books and even more magazines and newspapers. I have attended no end of lectures. I have studied the utterances of great minds over thousands of years - but nothing and no one tells me what I crave to know. What am I? Where am I? How am I? Why am I? I have no memory of volunteering so why, and by whom, was I drafted into this existence , and is there any meaning or follow-up?
Over the years, many have told me that they have the answers - but every one is based on Faith with a lot of Hope. Worse, they disagree with each other - often violently.
I long to move towards the Light, but, if I get there, what can I do with a bunch of photons? Can I ever understand the basics? Everything, it seems, is nothing but a mess of vibrations, the speed of which determines which are Energy and which are Matter, but they both get quite entangled, creating all sorts of entities that, in turn, combine to form what we see as suns, planets, universes, and you and me. We know that on at least one of these planets, the speed at which things vibrate, called Temperature, was just right for Life to evolve. But, what is Life?
The interplay of Energy and Matter created a huge broth of elements that just milled about until a few of them collided to create Intelligence who realized that a Command Centre was a must to give it a home in which it could thrive. So, it decided to build a Mind. To do this it needed Food in the form of mobile Electrons that coulde be found in Oxygen, Nitrates, Sulphates, and Iron. Many were needed because Mind had to be housed in a Brain that in turn needed a protecive shield. Not realizing what it was getting into, Intelligence plodded on, finding and recruiting suitable entities with which to construct such a centre that also required Communications and the allocation of Responsibilities . Then there were sights, sounds, and smells out there so Sensors had to be formed from cells that needed Incentives. As the Present was all that Intelligence knew, it neglected to include Longevity, so by trial and error learned how to reproduce itself and its creation so that a form of survival could be ensured through its progeny.
Soon, Intelligence and all it had produced was divided among numerous similar life forms that used inorganic sources of Food like sunlight, water, and soil with their vast stores of chemicals. They continue to be, by far, the most numerous and successful life forms today, and they evolved into millions of species such as Shewanella that, when deprived of its preferred food, will grow hairs that can seek and snatch electrons from iron flakes in rock, and continue to survive and reproduce without harm to other species. Some bacteria can, when the environment becomes hostile, lie dormant for centuries until conditions improve.
But, things went wrong. Intelligence was so pleased with its its creation, Mind, that it nelected to build in Gratitude, so Mind grew dominant, took over, and relegated Intelligence to a minor role. Intelligence became pregnant, giving birth to Wisdom who, throughout its long childhood, was largely ignored.
With hordes of bacteria milling about, all needing Food, some found it easier to invade other species without bringing Symbiosis, thus killing their hosts. Other renegades found it better just to use their neighbours as food, but they first had to devlope mobility and weapons for the chase and capture - and, of course, advanced methods of ingesting, digesting, and excreting.
We, unfortunately, have evolved from this last group. In our race to multiply and diversify we became addicted to different sources of Food so, when it became scarce, we invented Greed which had no tolerance for Compassion. Also, as we grew, the vast lines of Communication that Mind had set up among all these components sent back electrical impulses that could be interpreted as Pain or Pleasure. They also told us that Environment could turn hostile so offered us Fear and Curiosity as safeguards. Minds, here and there, realized they could profit from creating explanatory Myths that could give them power over others. A few Minds, that had taken a liking to young Wisdom, quesioned this practice, but they were so far in the minority that they could not prevail against the hordes that seized upon a particular Myth and used it to justify the exploitation of those addicted to different Myths. Eternal conflict spells Failure of Mind to organize itself successfully.
The story does not end there. The human species has created sub species called Computers and Robots with superior circuitry that will soon permit another take over.
Even if Intelligence is given a more influential role in future species it must be under the control of Wisdom if they are to find the answers that elude us.

Thursday, 13 January 2011


The January Tucson massacre is one more statistic among the 98,000 annual gunshot wounds that cause 30,000 deaths. Amid all the rhetoric and tears, there is little heard about the obvious need to outlaw today's easy access to guns. From its founding, guns have been considered a cherished personal right. in the US. Being born in violence, both Mexico and the US remain with problems not known in Canada with its relatively peaceful evolution. The settlement of the Canadian West came after that in the US. To avoid the legacy of gun-slinging cowboys and massacres of the Natives, Canada established law and order first, but this was prompted by US whiskey traders causing enormous harm to Natives who drank their "Fire-Water". In the Cypress Hills, 20 Assiniboine, including entire families were slaughtered by drunken traders in 1873 and other traders had set up posts like fortified Fort Whoop-up (near Lethbridge) trading bad whiskey for furs. Chiefs wanted the return of British troops but the problem was now Canada's, so in 1874 PM John A. MacDonald organized a force of 300 North West Mounted Police to capture the whiskey traders and establish law and order in 300,000 square miles. These "Mounties" made a show with an 800-mile parade westwards from Fort Dufferin, Manitoba, to Fort MacLeod, Alberta, with each troop having horses of a different colour. They were followed by a supply train of 114 carts, 73 freight wagons, and 93 head of cattle. The message was broadcast to the tribes that the red uniform of the Mounties meant a friend as opposed to the enemy that the blue uniforms of the US cavalry implied. Leaving detachments at selected points, the last remaining troop reached Fort Whoop-up to find that the whiskey traders had fled to Montana, so the fort was taken intact without firing a shot.

It is an amazing and successful story of scattered detachments of 2 or 3 Mounties maintaining the law in a vast territory. Sitting Bull and his group, fleeing the US Cavalry, were surprised to be met by only 2 Mounties who welcomed them into Canada provided they adhered to the Queen's law. The NWMP grew into The Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Different gun philosophies were also apparent in WWII. US airmen carried pistols. Commonwealth aircrew did not, arguing it was suicidal for a downed airman to be seen with a gun as he would be more likely to be shot than captured. A lone airman with a pistol was unlikely to shoot his way home through 90 million enemy.

Today in the US 70% of murders are by firearms, in Canada 30% usually by shotguns or rifles as handguns are strictly controlled. In 2004 the homicide rate in Canada per 100,000 people was 1.8. In the US it was 6.3. Canada has 1 policeman per 529 people. The US has 1 per 412.

Today, Canada maintains strict gun laws so suffers much less from gun crimes although drug-related violence is seeping across the border. It is a criminal offense to carry a gun into Canada.

Restricting the availability of arms has not prevented Canada from contributing some of the world's best airmen, sailors, and soldiers to world conflicts.