"Would the Rosette Nebula by any other name look as sweet? The bland New General Catalog designation of NGC 2237 doesn't appear to diminish the appearance of this flowery emission nebula, at the top of the image, atop a long stem of glowing hydrogen gas. Inside the nebula lies an open cluster of bright young stars designated NGC 2244.
These stars formed about four million years ago from the nebular material and their stellar winds are clearing a hole in the nebula's center, insulated by a layer of dust and hot gas. Ultraviolet light from the hot cluster stars causes the surrounding nebula to glow. The Rosette Nebula spans about 100 light-years across, lies about 5000 light-years away, and can be seen with a small telescope towards the constellation of the Unicorn (Monoceros)."
"I reckon that it takes about three minutes to read my text. Well, according to statistics, in that same short period of time 300 people will die and another 620 will be born. It takes me perhaps half an hour to write a text: here I sit, concentrating on my computer, books piled up beside me, ideas in my head, the scenery passing by outside my window. Everything seems perfectly normal all around me; and yet, during these thirty minutes, 3,000 people have died and 6,200 have just seen the light of the world for the first time.
Where are all those thousands of families who have just begun to weep over the loss of some dear one, or else laugh at the arrival of a son, grandson or brother? I stop and reflect for a while: perhaps many of these deaths are reaching the end of a long, painful sickness, and some persons are relieved that the Angel has come for them. Besides these, in all certainty hundreds of children who have just been born will be abandoned in a minute and transferred to the death statistics before I finish this text.
What a thought! A simple statistic that I came upon by chance and all of a sudden I can feel all those losses and encounters, smiles and tears. How many are leaving this life, alone in their rooms, without anyone realizing what is going on? How many will be born in secret, only to be abandoned at the door of shelters or convents? And then I reflect that I was part of the birth statistics and one day I will be included in the toll of the dead. How good that is to be fully aware that I am going to die. Ever since I took the road to Santiago I have understood that although life goes on and we are eternal, one day this existence will come to an end.
People think very little about death. They spend their lives worried about really absurd things, putting things off and leaving important moments aside. They risk nothing because they believe that is dangerous. They grumble a lot, but act like cowards when it is time to take certain steps. They want everything to change, but they themselves refuse to change. If they thought a little more about death, they would never fail to make that telephone call that they have been putting off. They would be a little more crazy. They would not be afraid of the end of this incarnation because you cannot be afraid of something that is going to happen anyway.
The Indians say: "Today is as good a day as any other to leave this world." And a sorcerer once remarked: "May death be always sitting beside you. That way, when you have to do something important, it will give you the strength and courage you need." I hope, reader, that you have accompanied me this far. It would be silly to let the subject scare you, because sooner or later we are all going to die. And only those who accept this are prepared for life."
"We're all going to die. We don't get much say over how or when, but we do get to decide how we're gonna live. So, do it. Decide. Is this the life you want to live? Is this the person you want to love? Is this the best you can be? Can you be stronger? Kinder? More compassionate? Decide. Breathe in. Breathe out and decide."
"The poet Jane Hirshfield referred in a poem to the number of atoms it takes to make a butterfly. Ten to the 24th power, I think she said. I thought I'd check it out. A typical butterfly might weigh about half a gram. The exact ratio of elements I don't know, but mostly hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen. Let's assume an atomic weight of ten for a typical atom; that is, an atom with ten nuclear particles (Hydrogen=1, carbon= 12, oxygen=16, and so on). A proton or neutron has a weight of about 1.6 X 10-24 grams. About 3 X 1022 atoms in a butterfly.
If I'm remembering Hirshfield's reference correctly (and I may not be), we are off by one or two orders of magnitude. No matter. It's a very big number. You want to make a butterfly? You will need 30,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms. And every one in exactly the right place.
Now consider the miracle of metamorphosis. The caterpillar builds a chrysalis. Wraps itself up in its closet. And there, in the privacy of its self-sufficiency, it rearranges those arrangements of atoms. The caterpillar's six stumpy front feet are turned into the butterfly's slender legs. Four wings develop, as do reproductive organs. Chewing mouthparts become adapted for sucking. A crawling, insatiable, leaf-eater is transformed into a winged, sex-obsessed nectar sipper.
This is why we need poets. It's one thing to count atoms, or draw diagrams of the 22 amino acids, or suss out their sequence on the long chains that are the proteins. Or read out the genome that controls the machinery that turns a creeping leaf-cruncher into a winged angel. But all that biochemistry, as wonderful as it is, leaves the essential mystery intact. The hum. The unceasing hum that is life. The inextinguishable continuity. Sing, poets. Sing your hosannas."
“The plain truth is we are going to die. Here I am, a teeny spec surrounded by boundless space and time, arguing with the whole of creation, shaking my fist, sputtering, growing even eloquent at times, and then - poof! I am gone. Swept off once and for all. I think that is very, very funny.” - Charles Simic
"In this passionately social world, loneliness dogged the spirit. People were constantly getting together, but they never really got there. Everyone was terrified of being alone with himself; yet in company, in spite of the universal assumption of comradeship, these strange beings remained as remote from one another as the stars. For everyone searched his neighbor's eyes for the image of himself, and never saw anything else. Or if he did, he was outraged and terrified."
- Olaf Stapledon, "Star Maker"
Freely download "Star Maker", by Olaf Stapledon, here:
"It’s quite amazing how the news is endlessly about nonsense. Filler, is what I call it. Very little of this has anything to do with reality, which the Mainstream Media and the American people avoid like the plague. What then is real?
1. The empire is in decline; every day, life here gets a little bit worse; all our institutions are corrupt to varying degrees; and there is no turning this situation around.
2. A crucial factor in this decline and irreversibility is the low level of intelligence of the American people. Americans are not only dumb; they are positively antagonistic toward the life of the mind.
3. Relations of power and money determine practically everything. The 3 wealthiest Americans own as much as the bottom 50% of the population, and this tendency will get worse over time.
4. The value system of the country, and its citizens, is fundamentally wrong-headed. It amounts to little more than hustling, selfishness, narcissism, and a blatant disregard for anyone but oneself. There is a kind of cruelty, or violence, deep in the American soul; many foreign observers and writers have commented on this. Americans are bitter, depressed, and angry, and the country offers very little by way of community or empathy.
5. Along with this is the support of meaningless wars and imperial adventures on the part of most of the population. That we drone-murder unarmed civilians on a weekly basis is barely on the radar screen of the American mind. In essence, the nation has evolved into a genocidal war machine run by a plutocracy and cheered on by mindless millions.
Most Americans hide from these depressing, even horrific, realities by what passes for ‘the news’, but also by means of alcohol, opioids, TV, cellphones, suicide, prescription drugs, workaholism, and spectator sports, to name but a few. This stuffing of the Void is probably our primary activity. In a word, we are eating ourselves alive, and only a tiny fraction of the population recognizes this."
Excerpt: "I am sharing a passage from Morris Berman’s book from a few years ago, "The Twilight of American Culture." Berman has generously agreed to let me share this passage, which is about the deplorable state of ignorance of the American people. The facts and data in this passage are a bit old, but all signs suggest that things have gotten worse since then, not better. "The Twilight of American Culture," pp. 33-40.
Turning to Item (c),The collapse of American intelligence, we find a picture that is unambiguously bleak. The following data are going to seem invented; please be assured, they are not.
– Forty-two percent of American adults cannot locate Japan on a world map, and according to Garrison Keillor (National Public Radio, 22 March 1997,) another survey revealed that nearly 15 percent couldn’t locate the United States (!). Keillor remarked that this was like not being able to “grab your rear end with both hands,” and he suggested that we stop being so assiduous, on the eve of elections, about trying to get out the vote.
– A survey taken in October 1996 revealed that one in ten voters did not know who the Republican or Democratic nominees for president were. This is particularly sobering when one remembers that one of the questions traditionally asked in psychiatric wards as part of the test for sanity is “Who is the president of the United States?”
– Very few Americans understand the degree to which corporations have taken over their lives. But according to a poll taken by Time magazine, nearly 70 percent of them believe in the existence of angels; and another study turned up the fact that 50 percent believe in the presence of UFOs and space aliens on earth, while a Gallup poll (reported on CNN, 19 August 1997) revealed that 71 percent believe that the U.S. government is engaged in a cover-up about the subject. More than 30 percent believe they have made contact with the dead.
– A 1995 article in the New York Times reported the results of a survey that revealed that 40 percent of American adults (this could be upward of 70 million people) did not know that Germany was our enemy in World War II. A Roper survey conducted in 1996 revealed that 84 percent of American college seniors cannot understand a newspaper editorial in any newspaper, and a U.S. Department of Education survey of 22,000 students in 1995 revealed that 50 percent were unaware of the Cold War, and that 60 percent had no idea of how the United States came into existence.
– At one point in 1996, Jay Leno invited a number of high school students to be on his television program and asked them to complete famous quotations from major American documents, such as the Gettysburg address and the Declaration of Independence. Their response in each case was to stare at him blankly. As a kind of follow-up, on his show of 3 June 1999, Leno screened a video of interviews he had conducted a few days before at a university graduation ceremony. He did not identify the institution in question; he told his TV audience only that the students he had interviewed included graduate students as well as undergraduates. The group included men, women, and people of color. Leno posed eight questions, as follows:
1. Who designed the first American flag? Answers included Susan B. Anthony (born in 1820,) and “Betsy Ford.”
2. What were the Thirteen Colonies free from, after the American Revolution? One student said, “The East Coast.”
3. What was the Gettysburg Address? One student replied, “An address to Getty;” another said, “I don’t know the exact address.”
4. Who invented the lightbulb? Answers included Thomas Jefferson
5. What is three squared? One student said, “Twenty-seven;” another said, “Six.”
6. What is the boiling point of water? Answers included 115 degrees?
7. How long does it take the earth to rotate once on its axis? The two answers Leno received here were “Light years” (which is a measure of distance, not time,) and “Twenty-four axises [sic].”
8. How many moons does the earth have? The student questioned said she had taken astronomy a few years back and had gotten an A in the course but that she couldn’t remember the correct answer.
It is important to note that not a single student interviewed had the correct answer to any of these questions. Leno’s comment on this pathetic debacle says it all: “And the Chinese are stealing secrets from us?”
– A 1998 survey by the National Constitution Center revealed that only 41 percent of American teenagers can name the three branches of government, but 59 percent can name the Three Stooges. Only 2 percent can name the chief justice of the Supreme Court; 26 percent were unable to identify the vice president. In the early 1990s, the National Assessment of Education Progress reported that 50 percent of seventeen year olds could not express 9/100 as a percentage, and nearly 50 percent couldn’t place the Civil War in the correct half century–data that the San Antonio Express News characterized as evidence of the “steady lobotomizing” of American culture. In another study of seventeen year olds, only 4 percent could read a bus schedule, and only 12% could arrange six common fractions in order of size.
– Ignorance of the most elementary scientific facts on the part of American adults is nothing less than breathtaking. In a survey conducted for the National Science Foundation in October 1995, 56 percent of those polled said that electrons were larger than atoms; 63 percent stated that the earliest human beings lived at the same time as the dinosaurs (a chronological error of more than 60 million years;) 53 percent said that the earth revolved around the sun in either a day or a month (that is to say, only 47 percent understood that the correct answer is one year;) and 91 percent were unable to state what a molecule was. A random telephone survey of more than two thousand adults, conducted by Northern Illinois University, revealed that 21 percent believed that the sun revolved around the earth, with an additional 7 percent saying that they did not know which revolved around which.
– Of the 158 countries in the United Nations, the United States ranks forty-ninth in literacy. Roughly 60 percent of the adult population reads as much as one book a year, where book is defined to include Harlequin romances and self-help manuals. Something like 120 million adults are illiterate or read at no better than a fifth-grade level. Among readers age twenty-one to thirty-five, 67 percent regularly read a daily newspaper in 1965, as compared with 31 percent in 1998.
– In a telephone survey conducted in 1998, 12 percent of Americans, asked who the wife of the biblical Noah was, said “Joan of Arc” (reported on National Public Radio, 13 June 1998.)
– In 1997, as a hoax, the attorney general of the state of Missouri submitted a proposal to an international academic accrediting agency (not identified) to establish an institution he named Eastern Missouri Business College, which would grant Ph.D’s in marine biology and genetic engineering, as well as in business. The faculty would include, inter alia, Moe Howard, Jerome Howard, and Larry Fine–that is, The Three Stooges; and the proposed motto on the college seal, roughly translated from the Latin, was Education Is for the Birds. The response? Academic accreditation was granted."
"We are seeing California house payments at an all time high. How much do you pay for your rent or your house payment. Here in Southern California the average rent is shocking. We had another bank failure and it was done after hours on a Friday night."
"In today's video, we are covering different food shortages that we are expecting in the upcoming months! We are getting reports all around the country on different food shortages that we are starting to find in major supermarkets! This is not good as people continue to try and put food on the table with extremely high prices in the grocery stores!"
"Riding high in the constellation of Auriga, beautiful, blue vdB 31 is the 31st object in Sidney van den Bergh's 1966 catalog of reflection nebulae. It shares this well-composed celestial still life with dark, obscuring clouds recorded in Edward E. Barnard's 1919 catalog of dark markings in the sky. All are interstellar dust clouds, blocking the light from background stars in the case of Barnard's dark nebulae. For vdB 31, the dust preferentially reflects the bluish starlight from embedded, hot, variable star AB Aurigae.
Exploring the environs of AB Aurigae with the Hubble Space Telescope has revealed the several million year young star is itself surrounded by flattened dusty disk with evidence for the ongoing formation of a planetary system. AB Aurigae is about 470 light-years away. At that distance this cosmic canvas would span about four light-years.”
"Americans are sick and tired of hearing that the economy is going 'just fine' when they continue to face major challenges to make ends meet every month. The cost of food is still soaring, gas prices jumped to an eight-month high this month, rent and housing costs are taking an even larger share of people's monthly payments, utilities are more expensive, and somehow we're still expected to have money left to save for emergencies and our futures at the end of every month. That seems too much to ask for many struggling families. There's no way everything is 'just fine' when the biggest part of our population is going into debt to be able to cover their basic needs while over 30 million people have fallen below the poverty line.
No matter what the media or government officials say, what we're facing on a daily basis is far more real than their numbers and projections about the economy. They say inflation is going down, but many of us are still seeing the cost of groceries hit new highs everytime we visit the store. We're paying more for our houses, our rents, our cars, and virtually everything we consume. If that's what a normal economy looks like, then we're in far more trouble than we all imagined. Wheather they want to admit it or not, we're on the middle of a devastating economic downturn, and our population is deeply hurting from it. The most important indicators debunk anyone who says the U.S. economy is in the right direction.
For example, last month, employers added just 221,000 jobs, the smallest gain in two and half years. Job openings have also dropped to the lowest level since May 2021. So far this year, several large companies have announced mass layoffs, such as 3M, which conducted 6,000 job cuts; while Disney slashed 7,000 jobs, Amazon laid-off 18,000 workers, Meta eliminated 11,000 positions, Google reduced its workforce by 6% or 12,000 jobs, and Walgreens just announced that 16% of its staff members will face lay-offs in the coming months. New Morning Consult data finds that Americans are deeply concerned about widespread job losses, with 75% citing those worries in May 2023. The report also revealed that nearly 2 in 5 U.S. adults are concerned about losing their own job, including 17% of baby boomers, 45% of Gen Xers, 56% of millennials, and 52% of Gen Zers.
Meanwhile, from January 2020 to January 2023, the number of job openings for middle-income positions fell by almost 10 percentage points, according to The Pew Research Center. While in early 2020, nearly 25% of job openings offered annual salaries between $58,000 and $99,000, by January this year, only 15% of open positions offered the same pay. Meanwhile, 35% of open jobs offer upper-income salaries of $100,000 or more. Typically, these positions are filled only by high-skilled professionals and college-educated Americans. In contrast, half of open positions in 2023 are for low-wage jobs.
Today, we compiled several numbers that prove conditions are getting harder for American workers as the cost of living crisis continues to accelerate."
"You never wanted to live through such times. I didn’t either. My own mindset four years ago was essentially that of a Victorian intellectual. I believed that we mostly had life figured out, mostly had unity on the basic principles of life. We should protect liberty through law. Government should be frugal or at least have plans in place to pay for what it spends. That peace is better than war. That the military is brutal and should be deployed sparingly and never against masses of the domestic population.
Yes, sure there were bad things going on, and plenty of messes out and about. But generally, innovation was keeping up, stocks were rising, inflation was mostly flat or tolerable, war was in the process of being discredited and health care and inflation could be reformed in a way that was market oriented.
Taxes could even be cut more, provided the right people controlled the Congress. There were crazy ideological groups on the loose - left and right - but they were far from being mainstream, much less a threat. In other words, I believed that things could only get better, maybe not right away, but over time.
The darkness fell in March 2020. We had no idea (at least I did not) that the foundations of civilization itself had cracked. The ceiling too. Both collapsed at the same time. What that month revealed to us - and the subsequent time further underscored - is that we were far worse off culturally and intellectually than I ever knew.
I talk to people all the time who still think that we can get through this without paying a heavy price. It’s nonsense. You can move to a red state. You can save your money. You can disappear from social media. You can stock up on essentials. All of those are worthy ideas. But there will be no one who will be safe from the coming storms.
The Insane Spending: Congress has been on a wild spending spree ever since those days, simply because they could. It was this binge that allowed the insanity at the state level to continue on and on. Essentially, Congress paid for the country to destroy itself.
I will illustrate the astonishing shock of what happened with a chart that, for some odd reason, I’ve never seen printed in the mainstream press. It shows total public debt as a percentage of GDP in 2020.
Here is another way to look at the same problem. This chart shows the percentage increase in federal government spending. What has happened in the last four years makes every administration we’ve ever had look like a pillar of frugality.
This is not an illusion. It represents the grim reality. The world as we know it was blown up. This is all reality: This debt will need to be paid. I can count a number of ways:
1. Inflation. This is already in double digits among producer prices. The consumer price index is going to come as a shock. Except that it will be reported with as much calm nothingness as possible, so that the natives won’t get restless.
This inflation itself will be underreported simply because we have a nation full of empty shelves. Everywhere. On random things. I was poking around some stores last night and observed that there were rows and rows of empty shelves in the store. This is nuts. Stores fight for shelf space. They keep as much inventory out as possible. Now they are moving shelves around to disguise the lack of goods. The rationing is already here with liquor and random goods in stores, but the Biden administration won’t hesitate to impose it on a broader class of goods.
The Fed right now is toying around with the idea of restricting inflationary monetary policies, possibly raising rates and curbing its debt purchases. Jerome Powell is making ever louder noises as a warning to Wall Street that the party could be ending soon. You know why markets have stopped listening to him? Because they do not believe him. They know that he will not do this because the damage is too deep and wide. For the Fed to end its policies would cause rates to soar, lending to collapse and the economy to tumble into a depression like we’ve never seen before.
Therefore the chairman of the Fed has one job right now and he knows it: keep this illusion alive as long as possible. When the chaos finally happens, his plan is to stay out of the way.
2. Taxation is the second way to pay. The IRS will certainly be monitoring more money coming and going from your bank account. The protests against the idea are feeble and temporary and this will happen. Will it work at raising revenue? I doubt it. It will however be used as another tool for targeting regime enemies. This power will reveal everyone as a viable subject for a tax audit. They can continue for years and drive people to despair and suicide. They usually cost more than they raise.
What about taxing the billionaires? Even if that works, and it will not because there is a reason these people are billionaires (they are smart), it would only pay the debt of a few days. When the total productivity of a nation falls below the accumulated debt that a nation owes, you are technically in default. Speaking of which:
3. Find new markets for the new debt. Five years ago, there were markets for U.S. debt all over the world and they were expanded. But in the meantime, the U.S. gave up its world leadership position. It encouraged a decoupling from trade, the destruction of supply chains, the ruination of traditional trade partnerships and the disintegration of decades of policies that promoted global integration. Now the U.S. finds itself in a strange position of being nearly alone, while China and the entire region develops new trade strategies and policies. At this stage, default might be the wisest move. Sure, that would ruin the U.S. as a credit risk for a generation. But that might happen in any case.
The Denialists: The first lecture I ever delivered on economics was about government spending and how it was going up dramatically in the mid 1980s. Yeah, we didn’t know what dramatic was! In any case, I recall explaining this to the kids there. They didn’t believe me. The entire media complex was complaining about spending cuts. How could they say this if spending was going up? I held up the chart. I passed around the chart. They questioned my source. I showed them the government document.
They never did come around to believing me. People believe what they want to believe. So too, people imagine that life can be normal again very soon. But reality has a way of prevailing over what we imagine to be true."
“Like a lot of people, I try to collect words to live by. Most of these words come from reading, but also from conversations, from teachers, and from everyday life. As Seneca, the philosopher and playwright, so eloquently put it: “We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching and the spirited and noble-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application – not far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech – and learn them so well that words become works.”
In my commonplace book, I keep these little sayings under the heading “Life.” That is, things that help me live better, more meaningfully, and with happiness and honesty. Below are 9 sayings, what they mean, and how they changed my life. Perhaps they will strike you and be of service. Hopefully the words might become works for you too.
“If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.”
- Nassim Taleb
This little epigram from Nassim Taleb has been a driving force in my life. It fuels my writing, but mostly it has fueled difficult personal decisions. A few years ago, I was in the middle of a difficult personal situation in which my financial incentives were not necessarily aligned with the right thing. Speaking out would cost me money. I actually emailed Nassim. I asked: “What does ‘saying’ entail? To the person? To the public? At what cost? And how do you know where/when ego might be the influencing factor in determining where you decide to go on that public/private spectrum?” His response was simple: If it harms the collective, you speak up until it no longer does. There’s another line in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar.‘ Caesar, having returned from the conquest of Gaul, is reminded to tread lightly when speaking to the senators. He replies, “Have I accomplished so much in battle, but now I’m afraid to tell some old men the truth?” That is what I think about with Nassim’s quote. What’s the point of working hard and being successful if it means biting your tongue (or declining to act) when you see something unfair or untoward? What do you care what everyone else thinks?
“It can have meaning if it changes you for the better.”
- Viktor Frankl
Viktor Frankl, who was imprisoned and survived three separate Nazi concentration camps, lost his wife, his parents, job, his home and the manuscript that his entire life’s work had gone into. Yet, he emerged from this horrific nightmare convinced that life was not meaningless and that suffering was not without purpose. His work in psychology – now known as logotherapy – is reminiscent of the Stoics: We don’t control what happens to us, only how we respond. Nothing deprives us of this ability to respond, even if only in the slightest way, even if that response is only acceptance. In bad moments, I think of this line. It reminds me that I can change for the better because of it and find meaning in everything – even if my “suffering” pales in comparison to what others have gone through.
“Thou knowest this man’s fall;
but thou knowest not his wrassling.”
- James Baldwin
As James Baldwin reflected on the death of his father, a man who he loved and hated, he realized that he only saw the man’s outsides. Yes, he had his problems but hidden behind those external manifestations was his own unique internal struggle which no other person is ever able to fully comprehend. The same is true for everyone – your parents, your boss, the person behind you in line. We can see their flaws but not their struggles. If we can focus on this, we’ll have so much more patience and so much less anger and resentment. It reminds me of another line that means a lot to me from Pascal: “To understand is to forgive.” You don’t have to fully understand or know, but it does help to try.
“This is not your responsibility, but it is your problem.”
- Cheryl Strayed
Though I came to Cheryl Strayed late, the impact has been significant. In the letter this quote came from, she was speaking to someone who had something unfair done to them. But you see, life is unfair. Just because you should not have to deal with something doesn’t change whether you in fact need to. It reminds me of something my parents told me when I was learning to drive: It doesn’t matter that you had the right of way if you end up dying in an accident. Deal with the situation at hand, even if you don’t want to, even if someone else should have to, because you’re the one that’s being affected by it. End of story. Her quote is the best articulation I’ve found of that fact.
“Dogs bark at what they cannot understand.”
People are going to criticize you. They are going to resist or resent what you try to do. You’re going to face obstacles and a lot of those obstacles will be other human beings. Heraclitus is explaining why. People don’t like change. They don’t like to be confused. It’s also a fact that doing new things means forcing change and confusion on other people. So, if you’re looking for an explanation for all the barking you’re hearing, there it is. Let it go, keep working, do your job. My other favorite line from Heraclitus is: “Character is fate.” Who you are and what you stand for will determine who you are and what you do. Surely character makes ignoring the barking a bit easier.
“Life is short – the fruit of this life is a
good character and acts for the common good.”
- Marcus Aurelius
Marcus wrote this line at some point during the Antonine Plague – a global pandemic spanning the entirety of his reign. He could have fled Rome. Most people of means did. No one would have faulted him if he did too. Instead, Marcus stayed and braved the deadliest plague of Rome’s 900-year history. And we know that he didn’t even consider choosing his safety and fleeing over his responsibility and staying. He wrote repeatedly about the Stoic concept of sympatheia - the idea that all things are mutually woven together, that we were made for each other, that we are all one.
It’s one of the lesser-known Stoic concepts because it’s easier to only think and care about the people immediately around you. It’s tempting to get consumed by your own problems. It’s natural to assume you have more in common and the same interests as the people who look like you or live like you do. But that is an insidious lie – one responsible for monstrous inhumanity and needless pain. When other people suffer, we suffer. When the world suffers, we suffer. What’s bad for the hive is bad for the bee, Marcus said. When we take actions, we have to always think: What would happen if everyone did this? What are the costs of my decisions for other people? What risks am I externalizing? Is this really what a person with good character and a concern for others would do? You have to care about others. It’s sometimes the hardest thing to do, but it’s the only thing that counts. As Heraclitus (one of Marcus’ favorites) said, character is fate. It’s the fruit of this life.
“Happiness does not come from the seeking,
it is never ours by right.”
- Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt was a remarkable woman. Her father killed himself. Her mother was verbally abusive. Her husband repeatedly betrayed her – even up to the moment he died. Yet she slowly but steadily became one of the most influential and important people in the world. I think you could argue that happiness and meaning came from this journey too. Her line here is reminiscent of something explained by both Aristotle and Viktor Frankl – happiness is not pursued, it ensues. It is the result of principles and the fulfillment of our potential. It is also transitory – we get glimpses of it. We don’t have it forever and we must continually re-engage with it. Whatever quote you need to understand this truth, use it. Because it will get you through bad times and to very good ones.
“You could leave life right now.
Let that determine what you do and say and think.”
- Marcus Aurelius
If there is better advice than this, it has yet to be written. For many civilizations, the first time that their citizens realize just how vulnerable they are is when they find out they’ve been conquered, or are at the mercy of some cruel tyrant, or some uncontainable disease. It’s when somebody famous – like Tom Hanks or Marcus Aurelius – falls ill that they get serious. The result of this delayed awakening is a critical realization: We are mortal and fragile, and fate can inflict horrible things on our tiny, powerless bodies. There is no amount of fleeing or quarantining we can do to insulate ourselves from the reality of human existence: memento mori – thou art mortal. No one, no country, no planet is as safe or as special as we like to think we are. We are all at the mercy of enormous events outside our control. You can go at any moment, Marcus was constantly reminding himself with each of the events swirling around him. He made sure this fact shaped every choice and action and thought.
“Some lack the fickleness to live as they wish
and just live as they have begun.”
After beginning with Seneca, let’s end with him. Inertia is a powerful force. The status quo – even if self-created – is comforting. So people find themselves on certain paths in life and cannot conceive of changing them, even if such a change would result in more personal happiness. We think that fickleness is a negative trait, but if it pushes you to be better and find and explore new, better things, it certainly isn’t. I’ve always been a proponent of dropping out, of quitting paths that have gotten stale. Seneca’s quote has helped me with that and I actually have it framed next to my desk so that I might look at it each day. It’s a constant reminder: Why am I still doing this? Is it for the right reasons? Or is it just because it’s been that way for a while?
The power of these quotes is that they say a lot with a little. They help guide us through the complexity of life with their unswerving directness. They make us better, keep us centered, give us something to rest on – a kind of backstop to prevent backsliding. That’s what these 9 quotes have done for me in my life. Borrow them or dig into history or religion or philosophy to find some to add to your own commonplace book. And then turn those words… into works.”
We Live in a Wilderness of Lies, Compromise & Corruption
by Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com
"If you don’t think we live in a wilderness of lies, compromise and corruption, you are not seeing what is going on in our nation’s capitol this week. More charges for President Donald Trump, while obvious charges for disgraced FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried are dropped by the DOJ. There is sworn testimony from IRS whistleblowers who say President Biden took millions of dollars in bribes while his bagman son cut a sweetheart deal to keep him and the entire Biden family out of jail. It’s not just the Bidens avoiding justice, but all of the Washington D.C. swamp on the take and covering up their crimes. If the Bidens go down, they all go down, and this includes both Democrats and Republicans of the Deep State uniparty.
More lies each and every week as the Lying Legacy Media (LLM) tells us that it is now “common” for 18-year old college athletes in top physical condition to suddenly fall down with a heart attack. Yet another lie to cover up disabling and murdering CV19 injection victims. It is “common” when you consider the CV19 so-called “vaccine” was, in fact, a bioweapon. I wonder if Labron James is still happy with the CV19 bioweapon/vax he pushed on the public now that his son has a career threatening heart problem at the ripe old age of 18? Will Jamie Foxx speak out about his vax injury? Will the LLM and Hollywood finally blow the whistle now they know they are going to be replaced with artificial intelligence (AI)? SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) were required to get the CV19 injections, and now, two short years later, AI is being introduced to replace them. I am sure with deaths and injuries mounting from the CV19 clot shots this is all just a coincidence—NOT.
The Federal Reserve has, once again, raised a key interest rate another .25%. The pundits keep telling us it’s “one and done,” but that was several rate increases ago. Is the Fed going to now start cutting interest rates or is Fed Head Jay Powell going to keep rates high to defend the U.S. dollar from a new currency coming out next month from the BRICS? I would not count on cuts anytime soon. By the way, the 30-year mortgage is now more than 7%, and at the beginning of 2022, it was half that amount." There is much more in the 53-minute newscast.
Knowing can be a curse on a person’s life. I’d traded in a pack of lies for a pack of truth, and I didn’t know which one was heavier. Which one took the most strength to carry around? It was a ridiculous question, though, because once you know the truth, you can’t ever go back and pick up your suitcase of lies. Heavier or not, the truth is yours now.”
“I don’t believe we shall ever have a good money again before we take the thing out of the hands of government, that is, we can’t take it violently out of the hands of government, all we can do is by some sly roundabout way introduce something that they can’t stop.”
– F.A. Hayek 1984
"As David Ignatius matured, his own world grew more and more remote from working class America. Private schools…elite colleges, connections (his father was Secretary of the Navy) and on to the 4th Estate – the Washington Post. And now he’s a cheerleader for the Deep State and its Empire. We’re looking for an explanation. Why? Why now? Why have Ignatius and his ilk turned against ‘The People’ they are meant to serve? Today, we give you the most obvious reason: it paid.
“When the money goes, everything goes,” is one of our favorite dicta, here at Bonner Private Research. Prices…values…retirement funds…wages – everything is calibrated in money. And when the money is fake, everything begins to wobble.
Flimflam Fiat: America’s money went fake in 1971, just as Mr. Ignatius became an adult. Since then, almost every measure you use shows a nation headed downhill – faster and faster…towards a brick wall. A marvelous website, entitled “WTF Happened in 1971” lays it out. Everything from earnings to GDP to childhood obesity – America’s decline is illustrated in one damning chart after another.
In 1972, after going up together for 30 years, productivity and hourly compensation parted ways – productivity kept rising, but wages slumped. In real terms, the typical man earns little more than he did half a century ago. By our measure – comparing the time it takes him to buy an average house and an average car – he is much poorer.
In 1970, you could buy an average house for about $25,000 – or about 2 1/2 years of income. Another way to look at it: it took about 18,000 hours of work at the minimum wage to buy a house in 1970. Today, it will take you more than 50,000.
In 1970 a new car cost about $3,500. At the average wage, $4/hour, it took about 900 hours on the job to buy one. Today, the average car sells for $48,000…which, at an average wage of $30/hour, takes a man 1,600 hours to earn (forgetting taxes, medical insurance and other costs).
In 1971, the wages for “The People” and earnings for the elites also parted company. While most people earn little more than they did 50 years ago, earnings for the top 5% have gone up 80%. And the top 1%, now earn five times as much as they did back then.
Whereas the top 1% got about 40% of all income in 1970, the total reaches to nearly 70% today.
Money is Time: The working man has his time. The elites have their assets. Comparing the two, from 1880 to 1971, the S&P 500 stocks generally sold for the equivalent of about 30 hours of labor by the average employee. After 1971, the value of time went way down…so that now it takes about 120 hours of work to buy the S&P 500. In other words, the asset holder has gotten 4 times richer. Or looking at it from ‘The People’s’ point of view, the non-asset owning working stiff has lost 75% of his relative wealth.
WTF happened in 1971? They changed the dollar into a pure-paper currency! Since then, the dollar, along with other major currencies, has lost somewhere between 90% and 100% of its value.
Meanwhile debt grew – in real terms. In 1971, US debt was about $370 billion....or nearly 25% of GDP; today, it is over $32 trillion, which is around 130% of GDP. US federal budgets were generally in balance before 1971 – except for times of depression or war. The US budget deficit for 1970 was just $26 billion. Over the last 12 months, by contrast, the feds have spent $2.4 trillion more than they took in.
Before 1971, US trade balances – same story. Generally, outgo and income met up regularly. But after 1971, they rarely even laid eyes on each other. Year after year, the deficits added up…until last year, when a new record was reached. The Wall Street Journal: "US Trade Deficit Hit Record In 2022." "The U.S. trade deficit for all of 2022 rose 12.2% to $948.1 billion, the widest gap on record, as the U.S. continued to depend heavily on imports from other countries to meet domestic demand. Exports also rose last year as global demand for U.S.-made products picked up. A U.S. dollar rally last year drove up the cost of U.S. goods and helped widen the annual deficit."
Don’t Sweat It: After 1971, the dollar was America’s number one export. We sent dollars overseas. The foreigners sent us TVs, autos, computer chips, blue jeans and everything we wanted. And as long as the US was able to ‘print’ money, rather than having to earn it, its economy, its markets, its politics and its society became further and further detached from reality. “They sweat; we think,” was a popular, flattering delusion.
But can thinking ever really be separated from sweating? Probably not. As the elites stopped perspiring, they also stopped thinking. And they were soon in fantasyland…where they thought they could ‘print’ their way to wealth and borrow their way to prosperity. The Fed dropped its key lending rate below zero and kept it there for the most part of 13 years…the Trump and Biden administrations handed out trillions of dollars’ worth of nonsensical ‘stimmie’ checks to goose up US GDP…and since 1999, the federal government added $27 trillion to the national debt.
And as we saw yesterday, David Ignatius, chief propagandist at the Washington Post, thinks the same sort of magic policies will work overseas as well as at home. Getting hundreds of thousands of people killed in the Ukraine…at a cost of trillions of dollars…was worth it, he believes, because it delivered a ‘strategic windfall’ to the US Empire.
But wait. There’s more. We’ve seen how the 1971 dollar switcheroo perverted our economy, our markets, our politics and our society. We’ve seen how the fake money made the rich richer and the poor, relatively, poorer…and how the mainstream media turned into a toady press, merely interpreting and reinforcing the elites’ messaging. But there’s more to the story, isn’t there? Tune in Monday…and we’ll look at the Green Transition..and how that helps explain how and why ‘The People’ have been kicked in the shins."