New Daily Prayer Routine

I tried — briefly — bargaining with God when we lost Elizabeth, our youngest child. (October 9, 2016)

When the somewhat one-sided conversation was over, I was accepting the unpleasant realities, and asking for help dealing with them: so I don’t feel particularly guilty.

I suspect that some folks say bargaining with God is always wrong because they see it as trying to manipulate God. That’s a bad idea: also impossible. The Almighty is just that. I can’t make God do anything. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 268274, 21182119)

God is good, merciful, and loving. But because we live with consequences of a really bad decision, seeing that love as jealousy and vengeance is easy; and that’s another topic. (Exodus 34:6; Psalms 73:1, 103:8, 136:126; Catechism, 270271, 385, 397406, 1472)

I’ve talked about anger, vengeance, and free will’s down side, before. (February 12, 2017; November 21, 2016; November 13, 2016: November 6, 2016; October 5, 2016)

“A Vital and Personal Relationship”

Abraham’s discussion with God in Genesis 18:2033 was, I think, a different sort of “bargaining.” The patriarch was apparently showing concern for God’s reputation.

Prayer should be “a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God.” (Catechism, 2258)

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”
(St. ThéRèse of Lisieux, Manuscrits autobiographiques, C 25r.; via Catechism, 2258

“Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.”
(St. John Damascene, De fide orthodoxa 3,24:PG 94,1089C; via Catechism, 2259)

Ideally, Christian prayer is a gift of God, covenant, and communion. (Catechism, 22582565)

I’m pretty sure that my prayers aren’t close to that ideal, but I’m working on it.

Routines and Meaning

Most of my prayers are part of my daily and weekly routines. I don’t see that as a problem, since they’re supposed to be routine: like prayer before meals and during Mass. (Catechism, 1342, 13451405, 2698)

A few folks have told me that prayers shouldn’t be memorized, that prayer should always be spontaneous. They had a point.

“…To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition.41
(Catechism, 2111)

Reducing prayer to ritual words and postures is a bad idea. so is seeing it as just psychological activity, or an effort to make my mind blank. (Catechism, 2726)

Prayer is a gift of grace, and something I can’t do unless I decide it’s worth the effort. (Catechism, 2725)

Prayer is also a battle against attitudes I’ve learned from “this present world,” pitfalls dug when time did not yet exist, and against my own shortcomings. (Catechism, 391395, 27252728)

Happily, there’s help available: drawing from two millennia of Christian experience, built on a much deeper foundation. (Catechism, 26852690)

Memorized prayers are in the mix, with a reminder that it’s not just the words. Thinking about what the words mean is important. (Catechism, 2688)

Prayer is always possible. (Catechism, 2743)

However, as anyone who has tried forming a habit of prayer knows, it’s not always easy:

“…There was a moment when I nearly refused to accept. — Deliberately I took the Rosary and very slowly and without even meditating or thinking – I said it slowly and calmly. The moment passed — but the darkness is so dark, and the pain is so painful….”
(Letter to Bishop Lawrence Trevor Picachy (September 1962), as quoted in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (2009) by Brian Kolodiejchuk, 2009, p. 238; via Wikiquote)

I think memorized prayers help at times like that.

Even when it’s not easy, prayer is always possible. That’s a good thing, because living as a Christian without prayer doesn’t work. Prayer is what makes sharing the love Jesus has for us possible. (Catechism, 27422745)

That’s not easy, either, and that’s yet another topic.

Lauds, Vespers, and Me


(From James Chan, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

I started a daily prayer routine reading David Torkington’s “The Resolution to end all Resolutions” (February 3, 2017).

Started the next day, actually.

I read “Resolution…” last Sunday, and thought finding “one resolution that will help you keep them all” was a good idea. After a little checking, I decided the Liturgy of the Hours would be a good starting point.

I’m a Catholic layman, not a priest, so doing the entire Liturgy of the Hours isn’t required.

Different prayers, Psalms, and assorted hymns go with each hour of each day and throughout the year. Details have changed over the centuries. That probably upset quite a few tight-collared folks along the way, and that’s yet again another topic.

Instead of trying to jump straight into a prayer regimen designed for someone else, I looked through the major hours. By the end of Sunday evening, I had a morning and an evening set of prayers, based on Lauds and Vespers.

I speak English, so the starting prayer for both is “God, come to my assistance; Lord, make haste to help me.”

Each ends with a form of the doxology: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”

“World without end” isn’t a literal translation of in saecula saeculorum.

That can be translated as “forever,” “to the ages of ages,” or “unto the ages of ages.” I understand that “world without end” is a synonym for “eternity;” it’s more comfortable, metrically, in my language; so I’m a happy camper.

Together, my morning and evening prayers add up to 520 words. Each includes the Lord’s Prayer, plus something to get started each day — and wrap up with thanks and resolution to do better. I haven’t missed either set so far.

Having both printed out and displayed on my desk helps. A lot.

Matthew’s Gospel has all seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, Luke has five, and that’s still another topic. (Matthew 6:913; Luke 11:14; Catechism, 2759, 28032854)

A Prayer for Clouded Hearts


(From Sb2s3, via Wikipmedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

Some prayers, like the Lord’s Prayer, have been around for millennia.

Compline goes back to somewhere in the fourth to sixth centuries: there’s been some discussion of that, and we’re still not sure.

St. Francis of Assisi probably wrote most of the Canticle of the Sun in 1224, and folks are still thinking of new prayers. I don’t see a problem with that, provided that the new prayer makes sense.

My third-oldest daughter wrote a prayer somewhere around December 1, 2011. She said sharing it was okay:

I pray to You, O Gracious Shepherd
For the sheep who’ve gone astray.
Grant that through Your Wondrous Power
Their clouded hearts will stir today.

Let them know Your Constant Mercy
Let Their hearts and souls be blessed
Grant that this, my prayer, be answered
Bring them safely home to rest.

Jesus, I Trust in You

Amen

Other posts, not entirely unrelated:

Posted in being Catholic | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Pollution: Still Learning

Scientists found PCBs and PBDEs in deep-sea critters, armyworms are on the march in Africa, and Mexico City’s air isn’t as clean as we’d hoped.

Rational concern seems reasonable.

  1. PCB in the Deep Blue Sea
  2. Armyworms March in Africa: and Asia, North America, – – –
  3. Mexico City’s Extended Car Ban: Good Idea, Nil Results
  4. Earth’s June 2015 Magnetic Field Breach
  5. Halley Base Relocated

Last week I talked about blaming our tools for our mistakes. (February 10, 2017)

This week I’ll revisit Lovecraft’s “placid island of ignorance,” sort of:


Dominion: Part of Our Job


(From Johnhart Studios, used w/o permission.)

I talked about Genesis 1:2627 and using our brains last week. (February 10, 2017)

Briefly, we have “dominion,” not ownership. God owns this place. As stewards, we have authority and responsibilities. (Genesis 1:29, 2:15; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 306308, 373, 2293, 2402)

Managing this world and its resources is part of our job. We can use what’s here, within reason: for ourselves, and preparing for future generations. (Catechism, 24152418, 2456)

Pollution

I’ll be talking about PCBs and PBDEs found deep in Earth’s ocean, and Mexico City’s effort to control air quality.

Pollution and politics got entangled, so if you’re bracing for a diatribe against someone or something — please relax.

My interest in pollution and other environmental matters comes from living on Earth, and being a Catholic who understands our faith. I’m not conservative or liberal: just Catholic. (January 22, 2017; August 12, 2016)

Pollution is far from a new environmental issue. Scientists found very old soot on the roof of caves. What we’ve done to stay healthy, and how effective we’ve been, has changed over the millennia.

I don’t know how effective England’s King Edward I 1272 proclamation, banning sea-coal burning in London, was.

Romans used chimneys in bakeries, Hamelin Plantagenet apparently had a chimney built into the new Conisbrough Castle keep, the technology didn’t catch on until later, and that’s another topic.

We’re still cleaning up the mess left from lapses of judgment during the Industrial Revolution, but factories weren’t the only polluters.

The Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894 gave way to Dr. Henry Antoine Des Voeux’s 1905 “Fog and Smoke” paper, which added “smog” to my language.

Basically, pollution is a real problem, it’s not new, and we generally try to control it. That’s a good thing, because soot and its contemporary equivalents can cause health problems.1

“God’s Gift to Everyone”


(From NASA, via Astrobiology Magazine, used w/o permission.)

Okay: pollution is real, and isn’t good for our health. Is trying to do something about it okay?

There’s that “in the world but not of the world” thing in John 15:1819, 17:1416, and Romans 12:2. But I’m quite sure that doesn’t mean we should ignore something that’s hurting folks.

I agree with Genesis 1:31: this world is “very good.” Respect for God should include respect for “…the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things….” (Catechism, 339)

Exodus 20:15, Leviticus 19:11, and Deuteronomy 5:19 say that stealing is a bad idea, and we shouldn’t do it. I think that makes sense.

More to the point, the ‘don’t steal’ principle goes beyond theft.

I’m expected to exercise “justice and charity” in how I use earthly goods. Private property is a good idea: but I must remember that my neighbors, and folks who haven’t been born yet, share this world with me. (Catechism, 24012406, 2415)

“…The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole….”
(“Caritas in Veritate,” Benedict XVI (June 29, 2009))


1. PCB in the Deep Blue Sea


(From NPG, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)

Banned chemicals persist in deep ocean
Paul Rincon, BBC News (February 2, 2017)

Chemicals banned in the 1970s have been found in the deepest reaches of the Pacific Ocean, a new study shows.

“Scientists were surprised by the relatively high concentrations of pollutants like PCBs and PBDEs in deep sea ecosystems.

“Used widely during much of the 20th Century, these chemicals were later found to be toxic and to build up in the environment.

The results are published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution….”

PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) and PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) are organic compounds. They’re marvelously useful. PCBs, first manufactured in 1881, kept electrical equipment cool, was used in carbonless copy paper and heat transfer fluids.

It’s also quite toxic, which is why various governments started banning the stuff. That was in the 1970s, around the time PBDE production started in America.

The stuff makes a good flame retardant. That’s why we put it in so many building materials, electronics, furnishings, motor vehicles, airplanes, plastics, polyurethane foams, and textiles. I talked about fire, humans, and learning, last week. (February 10, 2017)

It didn’t take nearly as long to realize that PBDE was toxic, too. Still, it looked like a good idea at the time.

Besides being toxic, PCBs and PBDEs are notoriously difficult to get rid of. Get rid of safely, that is. PCBs will break down at very high temperatures: into other toxic compounds, so that’s not a good idea.

They’ll react with various chemicals, and scientists are learning if that’ll lead to practical disposal technology. Other scientists have found microorganisms that eat PCBs: slowly. So will some ligninolytic fungi.2

Quite a few folks think turning PCBs and PBDEs into less-toxic stuff is important, so I think there’s reasonable hope that we’ll find a solution.

Meanwhile, I gather that most of us have stopped making the chemicals; so the problem now is mostly dealing with what’s already out there.

We’re Still Learning


(From National Centers for Environmental Information, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Earth’s surface, elevation map.)

Some textbooks, particularly the older ones, I grew up with showed ocean floors as vast plains, covered with of silt and organic debris which had drifted down over the aeons.

It made sense. Quite a few scientists had decided that Arthur Holmes’ research was right, and Earth is billions, not millions, of years old.

Then, as now, some folks insisted that the universe was created on the nightfall preceding October 23, 4004 BC. I’ve talked about science, truth, and using the brains God gave us, before. Often. (October 28, 2016; July 29, 2016; August 28, 2016)

The idea that parts of Earth’s crust had been moving hadn’t sunk in yet, so there was little reason to think that the seafloor was anything but a huge sedimentary deposit.

On the other hand, we did know about a few shallow spots. Matthew Fontaine Maury did some groundbreaking — waterbreaking?? — research in the mid-to-late 1800s.

Using soundings taken in 1853, he noticed comparatively shallow water between Newfoundland and Ireland.

Folks were planning a transatlantic telegraph cable at the time, so in 1854 Maury wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Navy describing a “telegraph plateau” along the proposed route.

It seemed too good to be true: and was. There is shallow water along the route. But depth in the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone, discovered in 1963, varies from 400 fathoms to nearly 2500 fathoms.

We were learning a lot, fast, about Earth in the 1950s and 60s. We didn’t have all the answers then, and still don’t. ‘Science news’ has remained occasionally more imaginative than accurate. (January 27, 2017; January 20, 2017; December 16, 2016)

We have, however, learned that critters live just about everywhere on Earth’s surface: including the deepest ocean trenches. We’re still not sure how long toxins stay in food chains and webs. But as I keep saying, we’re still learning.3


2. Armyworms March in Africa: and Asia, North America, – – –


(From CABI, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“The armyworm burrows into cobs”
(BBC News))

Fall armyworm ‘threatens African farmers’ livelihoods’
Helen Briggs, BBC News (February 6, 2017)

Scientists are calling for urgent action to halt the spread of a pest that is destroying maize crops and spreading rapidly across Africa.

“The fall armyworm poses a major threat to food security and agricultural trade, warns the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (Cabi).

“It says farmers’ livelihoods are at risk as the non-native insect threatens to reach Asia and the Mediterranean.

“The Food and Agriculture Organization plans emergency talks on the issue. …”

Amyworm is our name for several sorts of moth larvae: Spodoptera frugiperda, fall armyworm, is this article’s featured creature. It’s native to the Americas, and gets its name by being active mostly in autumn; and late summer, in the southern United States.

Spodoptera exempta, African armyworm, wreaks havoc in eastern Africa, Yemen, some Pacific islands, and parts of Australia.

Mythimna separata, Northern armyworm, does the same in China, Japan, South-east Asia, India, Sri Lanka, Eastern Australia, New Zealand, and some Pacific Islands.

Mythimna unipuncta, the “true” armyworm, is particularly common in North America. It’s in the Hawaiian Islands, some areas of South America, southern Europe, North Africa, the Sahel region of Africa, Central Asia and eastern Bangladesh, and east Africa, too.

The critters get their “armyworm” name by ‘marching’ through crops, defoliating the area, then moving on or burrowing to pupate and become moths.

The good news is that folks have developed quite a few ways to deal with them: picking the caterpillars off by hands, setting ducks loose in the fields, blacklight and pheromone traps for adults, and spraying pesticides.

We’ve been looking for alternatives to pesticides, which led scientists to several viruses, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, and a bacterium, that will kill armyworms. Quite a few of the critters die, eventually: but not before eating most of a season’s crop.4

A Digression on Maize, Mainly Linguistic


(From AndrewMT, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Maize production, worldwide.)

Maize,” by the way, is from the Americas, too. The first domestic variety was developed where Mexico is now, some 10,000 years ago. I don’t know what folks called it then.

About five centuries back, folks speaking Taíno told Spanish-speaking folks about mahiz. By the time the word got to me, my Upper-Midwest American English habits have me pronouncing it the same way I do “maze.”

Corn/maize/mahiz was developed long before the Olmecs, a name we got from Nahuatl, the Aztec language.

“Aztec” is what happened to the Nahuatl words aztecatl (singular) and aztecah (plural) when Alexander von Humboldt’s travel plans were disrupted; and that’s yet another topic.

I generally say “corn” when I mean maize. So, I understand, do most other Americans. Also Australians and New Zealanders.

The Oxford dictionary, being British, defines corn as “the chief cereal crop of a district, especially (in England) wheat or (in Scotland) oats;” or “the grain of a cereal crop.” They acknowledge my meaning, too.


3. Mexico City’s Extended Car Ban: Good Idea, Nil Results


(From Getty Images, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“The study finds that restricting cars on Saturdays doesn’t alleviate the dirty air”
(BBC News))

Car ban fails to curb air pollution in Mexico City
Matt McGrath, BBC News (February 2, 2017)

Banning cars on Saturdays in Mexico City hasn’t reduced air pollutants, according to a new study.

“Scientists had expected that limiting driving at the weekend would reduce vehicle emissions by 15%.

“But this analysis looking at pollution measurements in a city with serious air quality problems, found no discernible effect.

“Residents got round the restrictions by car pooling, using taxis and purchasing extra vehicles, researchers say.

“Back in 1992, the UN declared Mexico City the world’s most polluted city….”

First, the good news. Folks apparently have been cooperating with Mexico City’s Hoy No Circula program, started in 1989. It put limits on which cars could be used on weekdays.

Now, the not-so-good news: Mexico City is still on the now-drained Lake Texcoco lakebed, surrounded by mountains. That’s not going to change any time soon, and neither is the city’s comparative lack of natural ventilation.

Stuff that gets into Mexico City’s air tends to stay there, at least for a while. Los Angeles, another city lying in a basin, has similar problems.

That may explain why folks speaking Gabrielino called the Los Angeles basin “iyáangẚ.” Depending on who’s talking, that means “poison oak place” or “the valley of smoke.”

Then there’s what folks called the site of another American city, back in the day: “shikaakwa.” By the time English-speaking Americans tried saying something a French explorer wrote, the word was “Chicago.” Apparently it means “wild garlic.”

I give folks speaking Miami-Illinois languages credit for some sense of poetry, and suspect that a more idiomatically-accurate translation of shikaakwa as a place name for what we called the Chicago Portage would be “big stinky.”

Expectations, Speculation, and Hope


(From ComputerJA, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(A privately-owned museum in Mexico: the Museo Soumaya Plaza Carso’s entrance floor.)

The researchers said they found “no evidence that the expansion was successful in getting drivers to switch to lower-emitting forms of transportation.”

Expecting a 15% reduction in air pollution after adding Saturday to the Hoy No Circula program made sense: assuming that all of the measured pollution was from automobiles. One-sixth of six days is 16.67%, which is pretty close to 15%.

Also assuming that the city’s alternative vehicles were less polluting per person than privately-owned cars.

The researchers say the city’s public transit is slow and uncomfortable, which wouldn’t encourage use. I’m not convinced that public transit is necessarily less polluting than cars.

I strongly suspect that part of Mexico City’s air pollution is from the city’s 50,000 or so industries.5

Don’t get me wrong: I think Mexico City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities can be fine places to live. After we get some engineering and social issues sorted out.


4. Earth’s June 2015 Magnetic Field Breach


(From Science Photo Library, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“Artwork: The Earth’s magnetosphere protects the planet from a continuous flow of cosmic radiation”
(BBC News))

Scientists record breach in magnetic field
Siva Parameswaran, BBC News (February 2, 2017)

Scientists have recorded the events that unfolded after the Earth’s magnetic shield was breached.

“Openings in the planet’s magnetic field are not uncommon, but it is rarer to get the opportunity to gather data while such an event is in progress.

“A cosmic ray monitoring facility recorded a burst of cosmic rays associated with the opening.

“The magnetic field breach was the result of charged particles from the Sun striking the Earth at high speed.

“The GRAPES-3 muon telescope located at the Cosmic Ray Laboratory (CRL) in Ooty, southern India, recorded a burst of galactic cosmic rays of about 20 gigaelectronvolts (GeV) on 22 June 2015.

“‘In this case the magnetic field was breached for only two hours and then returned back to normal. The magnetic field strength reduced only by 2%,’ Dr Sunil Gupta, lead scientist at the CRL told the BBC….”

Scientists called the “breach” a “transient weakening of Earth’s magnetic shield” associated with “a severe G4-class geomagnetic storm.” It happened when a coronal mass ejection reached Earth.

Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are plasma, mostly electrons and protons, pushed out from the sun. They’re like clumps or gusts in the Solar wind, and were almost certainly happening long before we showed up.

Over the last few billion years, a very great many hit Earth’s magnetosphere. Or, when they hit while our field was reversing, Earth’s atmosphere.

What’s significant about this collision between a CME and Earth’s magnetosphere is that scientists had instruments set up, recording data, while it happened

The first CME we know of is the Solar storm of 1859.

We didn’t call it that until much later, after folks had learned what to look for.

Making Connections, 1860-1971

James Clerk Maxwell published his first set of differential equations around 1860.

Wilhelm Röntgen discovered Röntgen rays, winning the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901. We call that bandwidth of electromagnetic radiation X-rays today.

In 1902 Oliver Heaviside modified Maxwell’s equations, and said that we could look for a layer in the upper atmosphere that reflects some radio waves. Arthur E. Kennelly apparently said pretty much the same thing at the same time.

Edward Victor Appleton got the 1947 Nobel Prize in Physics for showing that the Kennelly-Heaviside layer was real: despite our having to learn something new about physics in the process, and that’s yet again another topic.

On December 14, 1971, Orbiting Solar Observatory 7’s SEC caught a 256 × 256 pixel image which was eventually viewed by David Roberts, an electronics technician working at the United States Naval Research Laboratory.

Roberts thought the bright spot was a glitch, until another image showed the spot — which had moved farther away from the sun. Scientists confirmed that this was the first clear detection of a coronal mass ejection.

Back in 1859, Röntgen rays and robot spaceships were generations in the future. It wasn’t until 1953 that scientists started noticing connections between sparky telegraph poles, spectacular auroral displays, and what two amateur astronomers had noticed.

September, 1859: Sparky Telegraph Poles

Just before noon, September 1, 1859, two amateur astronomers, Richard Carrington and Richard Hodgson, noticed a bright flare on the sun.

About 17.6 hours later, Balfour Stewart at the Kew Observatory magnetometer recorded a “magnetic crochet.”

Auroras of September 1 and 2 that year were spectacular. Gold miners in the Rocky Mountains started fixing breakfast, mistaking the glow for morning’s light.

Folks in the northeastern U.S. could read newspapers by the aurora’s light, which was visible in sub-Saharan Africa, Mexico, Queensland, and places even closer to the equator.

“…Between 12 and 1 o’clock, when the display was at its full brilliancy, the quiet streets of the city resting under this strange light, presented a beautiful as well as singular appearance.”
(Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser (September 3, 1859) via Wikipedia)

Some telegraph operators got electric shocks, telegraph pylons sparked, and some telegraph equipment stayed operational after their plugs were pulled.6

Lloyd’s of London and Making Progress

Shocked telegraph operators aside, the 1859 phenomenon didn’t affect people’s lives. Since then, we’ve built continent-spanning power grids and communication networks.

Lloyd’s of London produced a report “for general information purposes only” in 2013.

They figuring that a similar event would cost between 0.6 and 2.6 trillion dollars. That’s just in the United States; from damaged electrical equipment, power outages, and communication breakdowns.

We still don’t know exactly how coronal mass ejections work, what causes them, or how they interact with Earth’s magnetic field. For that matter, we’re far from certain how Earth’s magnetic field affects conditions here on the surface.6

That’s not, I think, a reason to be fearful. We’ve never known all there is to know about how this universe works, but we’ve been learning: and have recently discovered many previously-unknown questions. I see that as progress.


5. Halley Base Relocated


(From BAS/M.Krzysztofowicz, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“All eight modules were towed across the ice shelf to the new location further from the sea”

(From BAS/P.Bucktrout, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“The move was made possible by a hydraulic leg and ski system ”

(From BAS, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“The central red module weighs over 200 tonnes”
(BBC News))

UK completes Antarctic Halley base relocation
Jonathan Amos, BBC News (February 2, 2017)

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has completed the move of its Halley research station.

“The base is sited on the floating – and moving – Brunt Ice Shelf, and had to be relocated or face being dumped in the ocean.

“Tractors were used to tow the eight modules that make up the futuristic-looking Halley 23km further ‘inland’.

“Last month, BAS announced it would ‘mothball’ the station for the duration of the coming Antarctic winter….

“…It has two key functions. One is as a support link to deep-field exploration of the Antarctic interior. And the second – and main task – is as a centre of research itself….

“…Present day work also includes investigations into ‘space weather’ – the impacts that occur when particles and magnetic fields billowing away from the Sun collide with Earth’s magnetic field and upper atmosphere….”

I talked about the Brunt Ice Shelf and Halley Research Station’s move a few weeks back. (January 20, 2017)

Before I forget: the BAS website includes a “Halley Research Station – module layout” page and interactive 360° tour.

Normally there would be a crew of about 14 staying at the base over winter. I suppose BAS wants to give scientists more time to study the new cracks in Brunt Ice Shelf, before committing an overwinter crew. It’s a long winter night there. Sundown comes April 29, and it’ll be dark until dawn: August 13.

Nobody calls Antarctica home, not yet. But around 1,000 technicians and scientists stay for the winter at permanent bases. Antarctica’s population is usually about 4,000 in summer: including a few tourists.

Faith, Fear, and Lovecraft

I’ve mentioned Lovecraft’s “placid island of ignorance” before. (December 16, 2016)

“…The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age….”
(“The Call of Cthulhu,” H. P. Lovecraft (1929); via WikiQuote)

My lively interest in our expanding knowledge of God’s visible creation isn’t, I think, strictly required. But studying natural processes is a good idea. It’s one way we can learn more about God. (Catechism, 3135)

Some of our Saints, like St. Albertus Magnus and St. Hildegard of Bingen, were scientists back when science was still called natural philosophy. (October 30, 2016; July 29, 2016)

The Catholic version of faith is a willing and conscious “assent to the whole truth that God has revealed.” (Catechism, 142150)

Studying natural processes is one way we can learn more about God. (Catechism, 3135)

Deliberately maintaining ignorance of God’s creation seems — illogical. And that’s still another topic.

More ‘science’ posts:


1 About pollution:

2 PCBs, PBDEs, and deep-sea critters:

3 Earth’s ocean and life:

4 Armyworms:

5 Mexico City, mostly:

6 Coronal mass ejections, the 1859 storm, and all that:

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Anger and Whitewashed Tombs

Etching by B. Picart, 1713, after C. Le Brun; Wellcome Trust; via Wikimedia Commons; used w/o permission.

There’s a lot of anger online these days. Derogatory epithets1 getting spat back and forth on some social media give me that impression, anyway.

Getting angry is one thing. Staying angry is another. Hurling insults — brings me to part of today’s Gospel reading, Matthew 5:1737. It’s from the Sermon on the Mount:

15 16 ‘You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, “You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.”
17 But I say to you, whoever is angry 18 with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.”
(Matthew 5:2122)

The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, 6, and 7, is a sort of ‘Christianity 101:’ a look at what being a Christian means. There’s with a shorter version in Luke 6:2049.

It boils down to ‘love God, love my neighbor, everyone’s my neighbor.’ (Matthew 22:3640, Mark 12:2831; Matthew 5:4344; Mark 12:2831; Luke 10:2530; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1825)

“Raqa?!”

Raqa,”2 or “reqa,” probably meant something like “imbecile,” or “blockhead” in Aramaic. Either way, it’s offensive: and mild, compared to some of the insults I’ve seen recently.

I’m pretty sure that the idea in Matthew 5:22 is that verbal abuse is a bad idea, and we shouldn’t do it.

Worse, in a way, venting my feelings could become a bad habit: which probably involves my basal ganglia, and certainly gets harder to change as I get older.

I’ve been having a hard enough time dialing back sarcasm and other impulsive responses I’ve developed, without adding online insults to the mix.

Whitewashed Tombs

But as long as I keep all those red-hot rejoinders I think of to myself, I’m okay: right?

Not so much.

Matthew shares a list of “woes,” really bad ideas, later: Matthew 23:13 through 35.

They’re different sides of one really bad idea, actually: putting up a virtuous front while ignoring ethical rot inside. Luke mentions the problem, too: Luke 11:3452, and Luke 20:4547.

15 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.
“Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.”
(Matthew 23:2728)

Living in Truth

Since I take God and truth seriously, living in truth makes sense. (Romans 3:4; Catechism, 24652470, Catechism, 2505)

That’s why behaving myself, controlling my actions, and what happens in my heart, is important. (Matthew 15:1819)

I’d like to say that I have achieved perfection; that my every act, word, thought, and impulse reflects nothing but love for God, neighbor, and — you get the picture. That’s not even close to being true.

I’ve talked about truth, sin, and hypocrisy, before. Basically, Holy Willie is a terrible role model. (December 4, 2016; October 23, 2016)

Love and Justice

I won’t denounce ‘those sinners over there’ because I’m one of them. (December 4, 2016; July 10, 2016)

But if I think I’m a sinner, and don’t ask God to smite offensive folks something fearful, how come I don’t keep quiet about the invective I’ve been seeing?

Forgiving others is important.

11 If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.
“But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
(Matthew 6:1415)

1 2 ‘Stop judging, that you may not be judged.
“For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”
(Matthew 7:12)

Loving my neighbor also means working for justice and bearing “witness to the truth.” (John 18:37; Catechism, 24712474)

Respect for the “transcendent dignity” of humanity demands that I work for justice “as far as possible.” (Catechism, 976980, 1915, 19291933, 2820)

I figure that includes trying to do something about less-than-loving behavior.

For someone in my position, that includes suggesting that hurling insults is a bad idea: and acting like I believe it.

Ezekiel, Ephesians, and Me

I don’t have the sort of mandate Ezekiel got. However, I suspect that the general principle still applies, and taking a chance like this doesn’t make sense:

“If I say to the wicked man, You shall surely die; and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his wicked conduct so that he may live: that wicked man shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death.”
(Ezekiel 3:18)

I think this is good advice, too:

“All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.”
(Ephesians 4:31)

I’m still working on that. Particularly removing the bitterness and anger. And that’s another topic.

More, mostly about acting like love and God matter:


1Epithet” apparently doesn’t have much to do with “epaulettes,” although both came to English by way of French:

  • Epaulette
    “Late 18th century: from French épaulette, diminutive of épaule shoulder, from Latin spatula in the late Latin sense shoulder blade.” (oxforddictionaries.com)
  • Epithet
    “Late 16th century: from French épithète, or via Latin from Greek epitheton, neuter of epithetos attributed, from epitithenai add, from epi upon + tithenai to place.” (oxforddictionaries.com)

2 Sound familiar? I’ve been over this before:

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Bogs and Bison

The good news is that bison are back in Banff, and Britain’s bogs may bounce back, too. Keeping wetlands wet isn’t what many folks had in mind, back in my youth.

But as I keep saying, we’ve learned quite a bit since then.

  1. Saving Britain’s Bogs?
  2. Banff Bison Rebound

This post’s afterword is a quick look at how folks have perceived natural resources, plus a bit about pessimism and being human:


Stewardship and Learning Wisdom

I agree with God’s assessment: this world is “very good.” Basically. So are we: basically. The first of us made an appalling decision that broke our original harmony. (Genesis 1:31; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 355, 364, 374379, 396401)

That makes it hard to do what is right, and that’s another topic. (November 6, 2016)

Humanity is created in the image of God, rational creatures whose nature includes curiosity. We’re supposed to notice beauty and order in the universe, learn its natural laws, and use that knowledge: wisely. (Genesis 1:2627, 2:7; Catechism, 16, 341, 373, 1704, 17301731, 2293)

Part of our job is managing this world and its resources: for our reasoned use, and for future generations. (Catechism, 24152418, 2456)

Our “dominion” is not ownership. God owns this place. We’re stewards, a position that comes with authority and responsibilities. (Genesis 1:29, 2:15; Catechism, 306308, 2293)

We’ve got free will; so acting responsibly is an option, not a requirement. (Catechism, 311, 396, 1704, 1730)

Increasingly-effective tools we’ve developed over the last few centuries made the Green Revolution possible. Also killer fog and the Boston Molasses Disaster.

Fearing science and technology isn’t reasonable. Learning wisdom is. (January 20, 2017; July 22, 2016)

Don’t Blame the Tools

I said earlier that I think this world is basically good. That doesn’t mean I think it is “safe.” There are hazards here.

St. Thomas Aquinas had a few words to say about living in a world where we can get hurt. Quite a few, actually:

“In the words of Augustine (Super. Gen. contr. Manich. i): ‘If an unskilled person enters the workshop of an artificer he sees in it many appliances of which he does not understand the use, and which, if he is a foolish fellow, he considers unnecessary. Moreover, should he carelessly fall into the fire, or wound himself with a sharp-edged tool, he is under the impression that many of the things there are hurtful; whereas the craftsman, knowing their use, laughs at his folly. And thus some people presume to find fault with many things in this world, through not seeing the reasons for their existence. For though not required for the furnishing of our house, these things are necessary for the perfection of the universe.’ And, since man before he sinned would have used the things of this world conformably to the order designed, poisonous animals would not have injured him.”
(“The Summa Theologica,” First Part, Question 72; St. Thomas Aquinas [emphasis mine])

“…Now action is properly ascribed, not to the instrument, but to the principal agent, as building is ascribed to the builder, not to his tools. Hence it is evident that use is, properly speaking, an act of the will….”
(“The Summa Theologica,” First Part of the Second Part, Question 16, Article 1; St. Thomas Aquinas)
(translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province (Benziger Bros. edition, 1947))

St. Thomas Aquinas was quoting St. Augustine of Hippo. Falling into a fire or getting cut isn’t a good idea. But if a dummkopf wanders into a workshop and gets hurt — it isn’t the fire’s fault, or the sharp-edged tool’s.

I think the principle can be extended to all tech. When using our tools leads to unintended and unpleasant results, blaming the tools doesn’t make sense. Re-evaluating how we’re using them, and what we’re trying to do, does.


1. Saving Britain’s Bogs?


(From BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“The team carried out the laboratory experiments using lowland peatland agricultural soil and crops of radishes”
(BBC News))

Boosting water table can curb climate risks, says study
Mark Kinver, BBC News (February 6, 2017)

Increasing the water table under the UK’s arable peatland can help boost yields and the amount of carbon stored in the soil, a study has suggested.

“University of Sheffield researchers are encouraging farmers to increase the water table to 30cm under the surface, rather than the recommended 50cm.

“Under current practices, the nation’s farmed peatlands could be lost by the end of the century, they add.

“The findings appear in the Science of the Total Environment journal….”

I suppose peatland or sounds better than mire, bog, or fen, but all mean land that’s saturated with water and doesn’t have trees growing on it. Add trees, and we call it a swamp. In my ‘good old days,’ swamps and mires were mostly places to ignore or drain.

We’ve learned a lot since then, and I’m sure there is a great deal left to learn.

The old ‘ignore it or drain it’ attitude made some sense, before we learned what they do.

Bogs and fens are great places to live for critters like frogs and herons. Humans, not so much. Folks who wander into wetlands don’t always come out, particularly if they follow a will-o’-the-wisp, and that’s yet another topic.

For botanists and ecologists “peatland” is any terrain that’s mostly peat, down to a depth of at least 30 centimeters, 12 inches: even if it’s been drained.

Peat is what we get when organic stuff doesn’t quite decay. Given time, it would become coal. Folks have used it as a fuel, and still do.

I’ve read that burning peat caused the 1997 Southeast Asian haze, and that fires from slash-and-burn agriculture were to blame. I couldn’t find much data about the mess, but the 1997 Indonesian forest fires were spectacular.

Peatlands are found around the world, covering about 3% of Earth’s land: something like 4,000,000 square kilometers, 1,500,000 square miles. That’s a lot of swamp and mire.

It looks like peatlands hold and process something like a third of the carbon in Earth’s soil, and around 10% of the world’s fresh water.

That makes them an important part of life on Earth. We’ve learned that much since my youth. Ecology and environmental science emerged as distinct disciplines in the last century. So like I said, there is a great deal left to learn.1

Raising the Water Table: Possible?


(© Copyright Barbara Cook)
(“Greylake sluice on King’s Sedgemoor Drain”
(Wikipedia))

“…Peatlands are widely recognised as important habitats in need of preserving because they are a carbon-rich landscape, estimated to hold half of England’s soil carbon.

“However, they also are an important component of the UK farming landscape.

“Mr Musarika observed: ‘We want to maintain food production because we know the population is growing.

“‘We are realising that it is important to keep not just food but it is also important to maintain the peatlands because if we lose them then we will lose more carbon storage capabilities.’

“Co-author Prof Walter Oechel from the University of Exeter said the findings were important because climate change mitigation was a dominant fixture on the global policy table….”
(Mark Kinver, BBC News)

Hats off to Mark Kinver and BBC News, for not presenting this as a choice between either feeding folks or protecting a presumably-delicate Mother Nature. I’ve talked about Earth’s ecosystem, the last few billion years, and Captain Planet, before. (August 12, 2016)

Assuming that raising the water table by 20 centimeters under farmed peatland is a good idea, is it possible?

I think the answer is “yes.” Folks have been managing water levels in farmland for a long time. Probably not as long as we’ve been planting crops, though.

We don’t know exactly how and why folks near the Mediterranean’s east end started planting crops, roughly 11 millennia back.

The Holocene climatic optimum started about the same time, flooding Doggerland and — probably — making the Neolithic Revolution possible and/or necessary.2

Scientists sometimes call the Holocene climatic optimum the Atlantic period. It’s the moistest Blytt-Sernander period, pollen zone and chronozone during the Holocene in northern Europe.

Don’t bother trying to remember all those names, unless you’re a science geek, maybe.

The point is that Earth had been a lot colder, then it got a bit warmer, than it is today, and that’s when we developed agriculture. (January 20, 2017)

Oddly enough, I haven’t seen anyone blame neolithic farmers for ending the last glacial maximum and creating the Sahara Desert.

Irrigation: Still Learning

Someone developed the first irrigation system, almost certainly within a few hours flight time from Lachish.

Not that airlines existed back then. Nobody’s lived in Lachish since Alexander the Great’s time and that’s yet again another topic.

Where was I? Beauty, order, radishes, neolithic farmers. Right.

Irrigation goes back a long time. Sunshu Ao designed dams and reservoirs during the Zhou’s Spring and Autumn period, Ximen Bao did the same in the Warring States period. And yes, things can be worse than the recent American election.

Amenemhat III, he and Erra-imitti were roughly contemporary, probably used the Faiyum Oasis as a reservoir. Nubians had been using sakia, a sort of waterwheel, before that; someone in ancient Persia may have done the first irrigating.

Or maybe it was someone else, somewhere else.

Bottom line, folks have been managing water resources for a long time. We’re getting pretty good at it. We’re also learning to avoid irrigation’s technical, legal, and environmental problems.

That doesn’t make irrigation bad, or good. It’s just another tool we’ve developed. Learning to use it wisely and well is up to us.


2. Banff Bison Rebound


(From Parks Canada; via Reuters, BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“Bison returned to Banff last week after an absence of more than 100 years”
(BBC News))

Bison return to Banff national park in Canada
BBC News (February 6, 2017)

A herd of plains bison have been successfully reintroduced to Canada’s oldest national park, more than 100 years after they were nearly hunted out of existence.

“The 16 bison were moved to the Banff National Park in Alberta last week.

“On Monday officials said the transfer had gone smoothly and the animals were adapting well to their new home.

“The move will restore their role in the park’s ecosystem, officials say, and has been welcomed by indigenous groups.

“The bison will be kept under observation in an enclosed pasture of the park in the foothills of the Rockies until the summer of 2018, Parks Canada officials say….”

Hunting the American bison to near-extinction was among my civilization’s more egregious lapses in judgement of the late 19th century. By 1900, an estimated bison population of about 60,000,000 was down to a few hundred.

That was then, this is now, and we’ve learned that natural resources aren’t infinite. I’ll get back to that. The American bison population is up to about 360,000 now: although some of the critters aren’t, or aren’t quite, purebred bison.

Critters with three-eighths bison DNA are beefalo, and generally look more like the Bos Taurus cattle we’re used to. First-generation B. Taurus-bison hybrids generally look like buffalo.3

Folks who say that American bison with a bit of Bos taurus DNA aren’t “real” bison have a point. On the other hand, maybe it’s a good thing that many of today’s critters are a trifle more genetically diverse than survivors of that population bottleneck.

I’ve opined on bulldogs, racial purity, and the Habsburgs, before. (January 13, 2017; August 5, 2016)

The American bison won’t be galloping across North America’s windswept prairies again. Not any time soon, apart from some areas we’ve set aside for colorful critters. Vast herds of bison and cropland wouldn’t get along.

That said, I’m glad that we gained a measure of wisdom in time to save the bison. The dodo and passenger pigeon were another story: so far.

Getting a Grip About the Walghvogel

My guess is that you read about the dodo in high school, or ran into the story in a discussion of endangered species. It’s a classic tale of man’s inhumanity to bird.

Heedless of their peril, the story goes, innocent dodos of Mauritius fell before the relentless onslaught of vicious club-wielding sailors.

The tale has an element of truth. Humans have eaten dodos, which most likely explains a Dutch name for them: walghvogel — “tasteless/insipid/sickly-bird.” Humans are omnivores, so we can eat just about anything.

But we do have our preferences, and dodo apparently wasn’t one of them.

Writhing in agony over the evils of man is still an option, though, since humans introduced egg-eating critters to Mauritius. Scientists have suggested that the dodo declined because dogs, pigs, cats, rats, and crab-eating macaques, ate their eggs.

I think the passenger pigeon’s demise makes a more convincing narrative.

Remembering the Passenger Pigeon


(From Smith Bennett, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(A passenger pigeon hunt, from The Illustrated Shooting and Dramatic News (July 3, 1875))

When the 19th century began, the passenger pigeon was the most common bird in North America: maybe in the world.

From the Rocky Mountains to the east coast, from the Gulf Coast to Lake Winnipeg and Lake Nipigon, they filled the sky:

“…The air was literally filled with Pigeons; the light of noon-day was obscured as by an eclipse….”
(“Ornithological biography…,” pp. 319–327John James Audubon, via Wikipedia)

That was in 1813.

Unlike the dodo, humans think passenger pigeons taste good. More accurately, we did. That may help explain a pre-16th-century close call they had with extinction: and conservation procedures developed by folks who were here before Columbus.

America’s Gilded Age was a good time for at least some northern factory owners and workers. We’ve learned quite a bit since then, but not in time for passenger pigeons.

Cutting down a great deal of this continent’s forests, and industrial-level hunting, made the passenger pigeon what we now call an endangered species by the 1880s.

Some laws intended to protect the birds resulted in the arrest of a few non-wealthy trappers, and that was about it. I give them and “E” for effort.

Audubon said that he’d sent 350 passenger pigeons to assorted English nobles. The London Zoo had a few on display at one point. At the start of the 20th century, there were three known flocks of captive passenger pigeons: in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Cincinnati.

Then, on September 1, 1914, the last known passenger pigeon, named Martha, died in the Cincinnati Zoo.

The good news is that we’ve still got a bit of passenger pigeon DNA. No one sample is complete, but piecing then together should be possible. Reviving the species may be a bit beyond what we can do today: but not by much.4

The real challenge may be in raising enough passenger pigeons at one time to re-start the species. Passenger pigeons were very social birds.

Some of 19th century in America was bad news, like pre-lawsuit hydraulic mining, extinction of the passenger pigeon, and near-extinction of the American bison. But it wasn’t all bad.

A remarkable number of folks in America finally decided that slavery was a bad idea. New technologies like antiseptics and the McCormick reaper helped reduce the number of folks killed by epidemics, famines, and doctors. (October 30, 2016)

On the other hand, some folks got the notion that science and technology will solve all our problems, which I think is as daft as assuming the opposite.5


Perceptions and Resources


(From NASA, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center’s map of Earth, from satellite images.)

Back in my ‘good old days,’ which I don’t miss, I’d occasionally read about Earth’s “infinite” resources.

That’s daft. Earth is a pretty big place, about 8,000 miles across, but infinite it’s not. The universe we live in, maybe, cosmologists aren’t sure about that.

If the mean spatial curvature of spacetime is zero or negative, the universe has infinite volume. Maybe. That’s one of the many questions we didn’t know existed a few centuries back, and we’re still working on the answer(s). (January 29, 2017; September 30, 2016)

Getting back to resources and perceptions, folks like John Filson were probably trying to encourage others to settle in places like Kentucky:

“…Many mills are already built on this stream, some of which are represented in the map, and will have a plentiful supply of water in the dryest seasons. … Here is great plenty of fine cane, on which the cattle feed, and grow fat….”
(“The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke,” John Filson (1784) via Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Real estate marketing isn’t quite so lyrical these days, but I think it’s just as optimistic.

Anything involving people is seldom, if ever, simple; but I’ll try to avoid leaving out major points of the last few centuries.

Folks started coming to North America in wholesale lots somewhere around the 1830s. Immigration has had ups and downs since then. It still gives some folks conniptions, but not me. (February 1, 2017; January 22, 2017; November 29, 2016)

Folks like George Perkins Marsh and John Muir realized that cutting down trees without planting new ones is a bad idea.6

Folks started paying attention a bit before last passenger pigeon died, but I think it wasn’t until the 1960s that many got the message. Stewart Udall arguably gets some credit for the turnaround.

“…The modern land raiders, like the public-land raiders of another era, are ready to justify short-term gains by seeking to minimize the long-term losses. ‘Present the repair bill to the next generation’ has always been their unspoken slogan….”
(“The Quiet Crisis,” Stewart L. Udall (1963) via the Intenet Archive)

By then the notion that science and technology will solve all our problems had worn thin.7

Today’s Needs: and Tomorrow’s

From the International Space Station program and the JSC Earth Science & Remote Sensing Unit, ARES Division, Exploration Integration Science Directorate. ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) - This view of Earth's horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS).Thinking only of myself, or today’s desires, isn’t an option. Private ownership is a good idea, and so is using natural resources: within reason. But when I use today’s resources, I must remember the needs of future generations. (Catechism, 2401, 2415, 2456)

I’ve talked about the universal destination of goods before. (September 25, 2016)

Assuming that irresponsibility is okay because someone will invent a gadget tomorrow that will solve today’s problems doesn’t, I think, make sense.

That’s particularly true if we can at least start learning how to solve the problems now.

I also think that taking time to think through solutions makes sense.

Until the mid-20th century, for example, forest managers assumed that wildfires were always a bad thing.

That started changing in the 1960s, when folks noticed that no new giant sequoia were growing. It took time, but now fire is recognized as an important part of a forest’s life cycle.

My guess is that we still don’t know everything there is to know about life on Earth. But we’re learning.

Pessimism’s Persistent Popularity

I’m not sure why pessimism has such durable popularity.

Maybe it goes back to the days when Greco-Roman doctors figured there were four personalty types: sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic. Folks who were “melancholic” were analytical, wise and quiet.

That’s not a bad set of qualities.

Something like two dozen centuries later, we’ve learned a bit, and words have changed. In my language, melancholy means a persistently gloomy state of mind, or depression.

Along the way, melancholia has been seen as a disease, demonic possession, and an art movement. That last could explain some angsty artist wannabes. Having lived with it for decades, I see nothing ‘artistic’ or attractive about depression, and that’s still another topic. (October 5, 2016; September 4, 2016)

I’m pretty sure that gloominess is not next to Godliness. We’re supposed to desire happiness, and hope is a virtue. (Catechism, 33, 1718, 1817)

Still Learning


(From WiNG, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

Over the last million years, we’ve learned to use fire without killing ourselves. But it’s still not a “safe” technology.

Cities don’t burn as regularly as they once did, but urban fires happen: like the Edinburgh Cowgate fire and Lac-Mégantic derailment. We’re fine-tuning building codes, and learning that following pesky rules about storing flammable material is a good idea.

The trick is using humanity’s accumulated wisdom, and applying it to everyday life. Most of the time, we do a pretty good job: my opinion.

Sometimes mistakes are made. Then, most of the time, we clean up the mess and move on.

The problem isn’t the tech: it’s us.

“For mischief comes not out of the earth, nor does trouble spring out of the ground;
2 But man himself begets mischief, as sparks fly upward.”
(Job 5:67)

The good news is that we are still learning, getting smarter: and perhaps a little wiser.

Somewhat-related posts:


1 Bogs, fens, swamps, and all that:

2 Climate and agriculture background, the most recent 10 millennia:

3 The fall and rise of American bison:

4 Extinct birds:

5 More of my take on science, technology, and being human:

6 Wood actually does grow on trees. Tree farms are part of Minnesota’s economy, and we’re not alone. A very partial list:

7 Resources and perceptions:

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