Thursday, December 1, 2016

AN EPISTLE TO THE EARTHONIANS


by Ray Jason

 At the time, it was just an eccentric, utopian game.  But now, a couple of decades later, I realize that it was a perfect metaphor for my deepest aspirations.  I would find some nicely rounded, sea-worn rocks along the shore.  My favorites were about the size of a mango and slightly flattened.  On each one I would paint a short quotation from a wise thinker. 
Here are some examples that swiftly rise from my memory vault.  Whitman’s “Question much and obey little.”  Thoreau’s “Simplify, simplify, simplify…”  And Plato’s “The unconsidered Life is not worth living.”  I would then anonymously place these at well-known snorkeling sites, so that unsuspecting divers would suddenly be jolted by these pearls of wisdom.  I always thought of them as my “Ponder Stones.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

THE SEA GYPSY PATH TO TRUE FREEDOM



by Ray Jason          

A great sea gypsy family
 During the shrill cacophony of the U.S. election campaign, many friends and strangers asked me why I did not comment on it.  The reason is because I try to observe the world as a philosopher - and not as a pundit.  My belief is that pundits assess the short-term flux of events, whereas philosophers examine the long-term trends and consequences. 
            Here are some of my conclusions.  Intriguingly, they might provide some comfort to both camps – those devastated by the results and those delighted by them.  The Clintonistas might recall that when Obama was elected, the Right was quite certain that the world would end.  But, indeed, it did not end – although it also did not improve.  So even though you fear that Trump will bludgeon the planet off its very axis, this is not likely to occur.     
            As for the Trumpians, you might take heart in the knowledge that even though the goals of the victors are almost never realized once in office, the fact that your triumph was a referendum against the Establishment, makes it a far more potent force.  But you will need to remain vigilant, or your dream of Making America Great Again will go down in flames like Hope and Change.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

LOOKING ASTERN



by Ray Jason          

Ray on his birthday 2016
A few hours into every long voyage there comes a precious moment.  Most sailors pay it no heed - but I never miss it.  Suddenly, the gradually thinning margin of land and sea disappears.  The land has drowned.  The sea surrounds.  The domain of Humanity has vanished.  The realm of Nature is resurrected.
            Now my only companions reside in the sea and the sky.  The only laws are timeless and elemental – the mighty ocean currents and the churning atmospheric systems.  Most perceive this vastness as emptiness, but I see it as human-less.  Such solitude - such exile - does not trouble me, it pleases me.  And it allows me to glimpse the Human Project with a clarity unknown to land-dwellers.        
            This wet, surging enormity inspires a perspective on our species that reveals it to be both magnificent and malevolent.  It harkens up both Mozart and the Mushroom Cloud.  It whispers of a planet filled with riches - and the human psyche cursed with a lust for riches.  It provides a long lens that helps me focus on the multi-generational march of the human caravan.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

THE HUXLANDIA TRAP


by Ray Jason

In my previous essay I tried to convince you that two of the great masterpieces of 20th Century literature have been disturbingly accurate in predicting the Human Trajectory.  In George Orwell’s iconic 1984, he argued that humankind faces a totalitarian future where every individual is controlled and monitored by the State.  “Submit or die” might be the most accurate way to describe his dark vision.  Aldous Huxley, in his prophetic BRAVE NEW WORLD, suggested that the State would dominate the masses not through force and surveillance, but by distracting them so insidiously that they do not even notice their enslavement.  A catchphrase for this approach might be “Slavery is FUN!”
            Many political observers contend that the increasing domination by the State is furthered by using either the Orwell or the Huxley approach.  But I contend that the people in charge, who I call The Malignant Overlords, are using BOTH strategies.  I also believe that the U.S.A. is the main driving force in this descent into tyranny.  In my earlier essay I proposed that there are two coastal corridors where the majority of this agenda is implemented.  I dubbed the eastern branch ORWELLIA and the western section HUXLANDIA.  Since the first essay exposed the evils of ORWELLIA, this one will concentrate on the darkness that hides behind the smiley-face facade of HUXLANDIA.    

Thursday, October 6, 2016

ORWELLIA and HUXLANDIA



by Ray Jason           

Two of the most enduring novels of the 20th Century are Aldous Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD and George Orwell’s 1984.  Unfortunately, these dark masterpieces have proven to be stunningly prophetic.  Much of the grim, totalitarian future that they predicted has already materialized.  And we are steadily careening towards a nightmarish Tommorowland even more diabolical than they predicted.  Each author foresaw a bleak future where the Individual was completely subordinate to the State. 
Fortunately, we have not yet fully descended into a serf-like, police/surveillance state dystopia, but that seems to be our trajectory.  In both of these novels the State has already achieved its mission of either Rule through Force or Control through Distraction.  But the reader does not witness the lead-up and implementation of these dictatorial autocracies - which is where we are today.
Some undeniable examples of this include the militarization of police, the replacement of elected leaders with appointed bureaucrats, a slow-burn state of perpetual war and control of the media in only a few rich and powerful hands.   Oh, and I forgot to mention the almost inescapable surveillance - because I was busy replacing the tape over the all-seeing eye on my laptop’s webcam.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

SIMPLE CONSOLATIONS



 by Ray Jason         

          It was the silhouette hour.  A cayuco came paddling towards me in the deep dusk as I sat with my back against AVENTURA’s mast.  The oarsman’s stroke was smooth and strong.  There was a child in the back tending the fishing line as her dad rowed. 
When they were 20 yards away I realized that it was not a father – it was a grandmother.  Even though she was as ancient and weathered as her hand-carved cayuco, she propelled it like a man in the prime of his life.  It was a joy to behold.   
            I motioned them over towards my boat and hustled below for a packet of cookies to give to them.  As they nudged up beside my hull, I was amazed by the peaceful dignity of the old woman.  Her face was dark and deeply lined, but her eyes flashed like moonlight on the sea.  At this close range I could now see the amazing resemblance between her and her grand-daughter. 
As they rowed away I noticed the grandmother turn her head to make sure that the young girl was okay.  I suspect that as she did so her mind flashed back to when she was that same age - sitting in the stern of a little cayuco admiring the power and grace of HER grandmother as she paddled them across a twilight lagoon.
            I turned back to my clipboard and spent a half an hour working up a haiku to celebrate the encounter.
           
            Ancient grandmother –
            you still row your cayuco
            like the girl within.

                                              *******

Thursday, September 8, 2016

SUNSHINE AND SADNESS

by Ray Jason


            I walked into the little Panamanian drug store feeling sorry for myself because I had a nasty cold.  Two minutes later I walked out feeling humbled … and desolate.

            Inside there was a mom and her young teenage daughter consulting with the female pharmacist.  My arrival instantly turned the scene tense.  I could sense it – but not understand it.  Then I realized that the druggist was showing them how to use a pregnancy testing kit.
            Suddenly, the insignificance of my runny nose in comparison with their actual life-changing trauma, just hammered my heart.  I left swiftly – without buying any medicine.
            I swear, if a bishop had been walking past, I would have grabbed him by his authoritarian collar and shoved him into the farmacia and said,
            “Look at the agony on the faces of this mother and child.  Your church did this to them.  Your perverse desire to control even the most intimate details of a person’s conduct has cast them into a pit of worry and despair.  By forbidding her from using a birth control method that actually works, you are forcing this teenager to make a decision of lifelong importance - even though she is a half a decade from adulthood.”

Thursday, August 25, 2016

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORDS OF WAR

by Ray Jason



     1.   Thou shalt not notice that those of us who start the wars never fight and die in the wars - and neither do our families and our friends.

     2.   Thou shalt never describe War with words like “despicable,” “sick” and “repellant,” but shall instead use only approved words such as “heroic,” “glorious” and “necessary.”

         3.   Thou shalt overlook the core Truth that War is the deliberate murder of innocent people with whom you have no grievance and who have done you no harm.

         4.   Thou shalt disregard the fact that “The War to End All Wars” failed to do so, and that, in fact, within 20 years it spawned the most deadly and vicious war in history.

         5.   Thou shalt ignore the fact that the vast majority of the victims of modern warfare are not soldiers, but are helpless civilians – and you must understand that this savagery towards women and children is for “The Greater Good.”

         6.   Thou shalt not be disturbed by the realization that throughout all of history so much human energy and ingenuity has been dedicated to finding more powerful and efficient ways of butchering one another.

         7.   Thou shalt encourage your children to play violent video games, to applaud during war movies and to honor the flag even if it is drenched in blood – failure to do so might decrease the supply of faceless cogs in the War Machine.

         8.   Thou shall not be outraged that The Masters of War reap obscene profits during all three stages of conflict – the Preparations, the Execution and the Rebuilding – since we risk our fortunes and our reputations, whereas you merely risk your lives.

         9.   Thou shalt realize that although every type of weapon that has ever been developed was eventually used in war, those of us with our hands on the levers of power, would never use Thermonuclear Weapons - even though the secret bunkers that we have built blatantly contradict this.
  
     10.   Finally – and most importantly – thou shalt never awaken from the trance of Patriotism and Religious Zealotry and suddenly understand that without your insane willingness to kill and die, all war would immediately cease.  And above all thou shalt never think or speak the words “Hell no – We won’t go!!!” 

                                          *******

     DEAR  READER, 
     
     I HAVE WRITTEN 85 ESSAYS AND NEVER MADE A DIRECT REQUEST LIKE THIS BEFORE - BUT I WOULD BE VERY GRATEFUL IF YOU WOULD SHARE AND TWEET THIS PIECE WITH AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE.   

     Thanks, 

     Ray








Monday, August 15, 2016

THE OLD HIPPIE AND THE BANANA BIRDS

by Ray Jason 

            The old hippie has found his bliss.
            He runs a ten table restaurant down here south of many borders.  If it wasn’t for the sign out front, you would never even realize that his business exists.  It looks more like a garden with a roof on top. 
            Besides serving food for the body, it also features food for the mind and the spirit.  That’s because even though it doesn’t have walls, it has shelves filled with thousands of books.  It is the local book swap, where you can take one if you leave one.  Of course, if you desire one from the “Philosophy” section, you have to leave two!

                                          *******

            The old hippie placed the plate with the omelette on my table and then paused for a second before asking,
            “Is there something wrong with your phone?”

            He was referring to the fact that I was the only customer that was not fixated on their Smart Phone … or as I prefer to describe them … their Personal Enslavement Device.
            I took out my little no-frills phone and smiled up at him as I replied,
            “No. there is something right about it … no apps, no camera, no addiction.”
            He chuckled and said,
            “Brother, you’re speaking my language!”
            Then I asked him about the banana birds.  While waiting for my food to arrive, I had marveled at the many different birds feasting on a single banana from a stalk of about ten.  He told me that they would find the ripest fruit and concentrate on just that one.  This left nine for the restaurant to use in their banana pancakes and muffins.  This live and let live approach suited him just fine.  After all, he wasn’t a “gotta have it all” hedge fund manager, he was just an old hippie.        
            As he was about to head off to a nearby table, he paused again and melodically said,
            “If you’re going to San Francisco …”
            To which I immediately replied,
            “ … be sure to wear some flowers in your hair…”
            We both smiled broadly and flashed each other a peace sign.

                                          *******

Thursday, July 28, 2016

FINDING JOY IN THE ABYSS



by Ray Jason          

          Why do I linger here in the Archipelago of Bliss? 
After all, my stalwart little ship could carry me away to any of the exotic lands that have whispered to wanderers down the centuries.  We could drop anchor amidst the palm-fringed isles of the South Pacific.  We could explore the mist- shrouded coast of Japan.  Or we could visit Easter Island - with its gigantic stone heads that endlessly stare at the Wide Waters.
And yet I remain entranced by this little dollop of islands in the Undiscovered Caribbean.  Recently, I finally realized why I am so enchanted by this place.  It is because this is a Land beyond Time. 
This revelation arrived in a sweet and poignant manner.  I was starting to raise my anchor when I noticed a commotion on the nearby shore.  A small group of men were dragging a log from the jungle down to the tiny beach.  The Indio children were laughing and leaping in spasms of delight.  That’s because they knew that their dad would soon transform this tree trunk into a … cayuco. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

A CRY FOR SANITY


by Ray Jason

photo by Eric Gaillard
Jihadists of the world awaken from your putrid trance!!!  You have been mesmerized by a filthy madness.  Here is the essence of that lunacy, since you apparently do not see it. 
You are turning innocent, bright-eyed little girls into flattened, oozing pulp because of an un-provable belief.  You are randomly butchering living, caring human beings because you see them as infidels.  You are smearing the walls of airports and bus stations with the intestines of grandmothers because you believe that your god is better than their god. 
You are committing these atrocities FOR WHAT?  The innocents that you massacre did you no harm and did not even know you.  WAKE UP!!!  Behold what you are actually doing.  You are slaughtering these breathing, dreaming, amazing human beings because of what - because of ideas, verses in a book, dogma, and taunts from a pulpit.  These are all ABSTRACTIONS!  These are NON-LIFE, and you are exterminating REAL LIFE because of them.  Such blind conduct is both obscene and absurd.  How would you like me to enter your home and gun down your children in the name of Geometry?            
Let me address some of your abstractions.  Your supposed god, Allah, has been a scourge on humanity for nearly as long as the other two main “sky-god” religions.  And yet in the thousands of years of their supposed existence, there has been no clear and decisive manifestation of any of these gods to the people of Earth.  If they are so all powerful, why have they not made an appearance to silence the millions of non-believers who have doubted them down through the centuries?  We only learn of them through the rantings of reality-challenged males who supposedly can part the seas and resurrect themselves from death and ascend into the sky on a winged horse. 
And yet, to serve your invisible god in the sky, you would let your truck of death disembowel an innocent little girl.  You will never witness her as she clings to her little doll and tries to understand the instant, unbearable pain that overwhelms her like a bright white blackness.  And what kind of future has your viciousness and your Allah bequeathed her parents whose lives are now forever darkened with a despair that can never be healed?
Here is another one of your abstractions that manifests itself in the most horrific manner - Jihad or Holy War.  Can you not see the sickness at the very core of any concept that must be spread by the sword?  Would you choose anything that has to be forced upon you?  And yet you see no madness in imposing your religion with the pin of a grenade.  Perhaps you even rejoice at the sight of a terrified grandmother soiling herself as you detonate every living being near you.
And what type of Holy Warrior attacks unprotected civilians - the type who is actually an Unholy Coward.  This type is also a tactical idiot.  Who could possibly perceive such despicable acts of terror as a means of winning the hearts and minds of potential supporters?  But when one has been hypnotized by another un-provable abstraction – the one which claims that martyrs to the cause of jihad will be serviced by dozens of virgins after they immolate the infidels – then one’s judgment is demented.
Certainly, I will not deny that some of your jihadist rage stems from blowback to the hideous suffering that the West has imposed upon you with its bombs and drones and soldiers.  But the ordinary, little people of Europe and North America did not initiate that nor did they support that.  And so when you target them for your crusade of carnage, you are only intensifying the absurdity of your assertion that Islam is the Religion of Peace. 
Try proving that to the families whose loved ones were just splattered mercilessly on a sidewalk and street in Southern France.      


Thursday, July 7, 2016

SEA GYPSY NOCTURNE # 2


by Ray Jason

Something startled me from sleep.  Because solo sailors need to be extremely alert in order to avoid catastrophes, my finely-tuned emergency reflexes immediately kicked in.  I lay on my bunk in the darkness listening for unusual sounds and monitoring abnormal movement.  But I detected neither.  Suddenly, I realized what had unsettled me, and I laughed quietly.  I had been awoken by the intense stillness and silence.  In a modern world drowning in frenzy and noise, such profound peace and quiet was … disquieting.
            Since I live so immersed in Nature, I knew what phase the moon was in, and so I went up on deck to watch its descent behind the jungled mountains.  The little bay was so tranquil that there was not a ripple in the water.  It had transformed itself into a moon mirror.  No fish splashed and no night bird sang out an alert.  This was primordial serenity. 
            Recognizing that the moonset was probably about 90 minutes away, I headed below and made some tea.  Then I went topside again with my cup and my clipboard with its little reading light.  This was a philosopher’s dream scenario – Solitude, Stillness and Silence. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

IN PRAISE OF LOWER EDUCATION



by Ray Jason          


           One of the great joys of my sea gypsy life is the wonderful sense of camaraderie that exists amongst the ocean sailing community.  Because we have voluntarily embraced dangers that land-dwellers vigorously avoid, we have a deep sense of kinship.  And when we gather together in foreign ports, we are extremely helpful to each other because we are essentially a wandering, water-winged tribe.  This is a far cry from the isolation and suffocation of the modern suburbs.
            A common fixture of our little sub-culture is something called “The Morning Net.”  It is a radio broadcast in which the sailors can share valuable information.  If you need to borrow a torque wrench or check on the surf report or sell an item that you no longer need, the Net will assist you.  And if there is a genuine emergency such as a snake bite, the sailors’ radios will light up with help from our many Sea Samaritans.
            About a week ago, the Morning Net also bequeathed me the subject for this essay.  I noticed that cruisers were requesting help from the various tradesmen scattered amongst our fleet.  People were seeking a diesel mechanic and a refrigeration specialist and a welder and fiberglass worker and an electrician.  But more importantly, I noticed that nobody was seeking help from a hedge fund manager or a “political scientist” or an expert in gender studies.  (Actually, the cruising community has gender issues fairly well figured out.  The common joke is that the husbands may be the Captains, but the wives are the ADMIRALS!)  

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A SUPER BOWL EPIPHANY



by Ray Jason


It probably seems odd for me to post an essay on this topic in June instead of in February when the game takes place.  However, the ideas in this piece just came to me in such a spontaneous gush, that it seemed like they wanted to get out into the world.  So here is another example of my “fictional philosophy.”

                                   *******


            During the third quarter of the Super Bowl, the legendary quarterback suffered a helmet to helmet injury that looked extremely severe.  The TV replays confirmed this; and everyone wondered whether he would be able to return to the game after the doctors examined him.  But the medical team determined that what looked like a possible major concussion was only minor.  So he was soon allowed to go back onto the field.  What happened next immediately became legendary.  And what happened after that became a societal earthquake.
            When the reporters searched for a way to describe the QB’s performance during the rest of the game, the word that kept appearing was “otherworldly.”  His passes and decisions and scrambles were so perfect that it seemed like his head injury had suddenly bequeathed him almost superhero powers of strength and vision.  He threw five touchdown passes in the second half and ran for another score while evading eight different tacklers.  His team won easily.
            Whereas most of the world goes on to other things after the Super Bowl ends, the QB’s brilliance had been so astonishing that hundreds of  millions of viewers stayed near their televisions so that they could watch the post-game press conference.  It far exceeded their expectations.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A MONK WITHOUT A GOD



 by Ray Jason         
   
            A black-crowned night heron was clinging to my anchor chain, searching the quiet sea for a fish.   As the sun eased its orange rim just above the horizon, the little bird looked up, and so did I.  This sunrise held exceptional promise because of the cloud formations scattered about.  There were immense walls of dense cumulus flanking a high ceiling of delicate cirrus.  When the sun fully emerged from the sea, it transformed the sky into a magnificent, amber cathedral.  Here was a radiant sanctuary worthy of Mother Ocean.
            Spellbound by this magnificent panorama, I found myself searching for the best word to describe it, and then it came to me – HOLY!  This led me to a rather startling revelation.  I suddenly realized that my life had evolved to the point where my little sailing ship had become a one-person, floating monastery.  I had become a seeker of the hallowed and enduring qualities that illuminate the human mystery.    
           

Thursday, May 12, 2016

WHERE THE BLUE MEETS THE BLUE



 by Ray Jason          

           Never before and never since – had I felt such an elemental connection to our wet and wondrous planet.  I was clinging to the top of AVENTURA’s mast, gazing at a panorama saturated in “blueness.”  The dark blue of the Sea undulated to the horizon where it mated with the delicate blue of the Sky.  It was like a “white-out” in a blizzard - but here in the Far Pacific it was a “blue-out.” 
            I had climbed the 18 steps up my mast in the hopes of finding a little wind somewhere on this immense stillness.  I was competing in the Single-handed Trans-Pacific Race from San Francisco to Hawaii, which means I was sailing alone.  And if ever there was an example of solitude, this was it.  Calculating my height above the water and the distance to the horizon, I realized that I could see about 200 square miles of ocean.  I was the only human in that vast blueness.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

SEA GYPSY NOCTURNE # 1



 by Ray Jason          

            In a far anchorage of the Archipelago of Bliss, the thick tropical night heat had glistened my little ship.  As I came on deck, I was delighted to find her shimmering with moon glow.  A single night bird was calling for a mate - or perhaps it was just saluting the almost unbearable beauty.
            I was carrying a pitcher of water to pour over myself with the hope of cooling down enough to go back to sleep.  After dousing myself, I stood on the bow and smiled - knowing that I was the only human in this silver-tinted lagoon.  The night bird fell silent.  Maybe it had never seen a naked man glistening and shimmering in the moonlight.    
            I sat down, and my dampness merged with the dewy deck.  Sleep no longer appealed to me.  This was one of those transcendent moments that only a fool or an empty person would fail to savor.  Such a night must have inspired the many immortal classical music geniuses who had composed “nocturnes.”  The idea of writing a philosophical nocturne suddenly intrigued me.  Ideally, it would be poetic and evocative and broad in its perspective – illuminating the grand sweep of the human horizon.       

                                           *******

Friday, April 15, 2016

A LITTLE HOPE FOR THE YOUNG AND THE LOST



by Ray Jason        

           Perhaps you awaken in the midnight stillness and find yourself lost in the labyrinth of an elusive but disturbing dream.  As consciousness returns, you realize that it is not a dream that is troubling you – it is the reality of your life.   You suddenly realize that the modern world is not providing you with joyous possibilities.  Instead, it is ensnaring you in a digital desert.
            You recognize that your 1,243 Facebook friends are actually 1,243 Falsebook strangers.  And you are forced to acknowledge that you hardly ever see your real friends - unless it is their image on a handheld screen.  You wonder why you feel so isolated and alienated and ALONE - in a world that is supposed to be so connected.

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