Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Choices and Voices

"That is considered wisdom, which,
describes the scratch and not the itch."
— Kenneth Boulding

We have been contemplating the direction this blog has taken and whether some kind of shift back to where we began might be in order. Maybe, we wondered, we should bifurcate the word-stream into two tributaries; one political, one practical. Maybe even three tributaries, to account for those wider, weirder occasional stretches of our imagination.

That led to trying to mentally verbalize what the role of this blog is, and in doing that we traversed some interesting territory.

A blog is short for weblog, the itinerary of a surfing safari: locales visited, the waves found there, rocks, shoals and crowds of co-kooks to be aware of, and then some in-gathering synthesis of the overall experience, punctuated with the rare revealed wisdom. Blogs adhering to this tradition are peppered with URLs and recursive notes to earlier safaris.

Blogs have morphed in recent years, slouching in the direction of link-less op-eds, and that trend is growing, not receding, as wood-based newspapers pack-up their greasy old chainsaws in favor of shiny gigawatt server farms (pardon our coal ash, nuclear waste, and salmon kill, nothing but paperless electrons here). At this blog, our electrons began as photons captured in a silicon amber agitating a nearby silver thread enough to disgorge a current of loose particles that moved up a wire to this MacBook our fingers now pound.

“Op-ed,” by the way, meant “opposite the editorial page” in a newspaper. The editorial page was devoted to the paid employees or owners of the publication, and the facing page was for the syndicated columnists and the unpaid opinions of more ordinary people. That blogs are now the dominant news-form speaks volumes of the paucity of wisdom emanating from the inbred journalistic caste. Our Sulzbergers, Ochs, Berliscones and Murdochs have simply lost credibility.

While we have frequently ventured into pristine unsupported opinion here, more often we have tried to leave behind breadcrumbs of web references so that our trail can be retraced by anyone. This is a good practice, and we will probably continue doing that, even if sometimes birds eat the crumbs.

Whether to have this space revert to something resembling an extended Post-Petroleum Survival Guide reference appendix in real time or to follow our Muse into Obamanomics, international torture trials, energetic nanocomposites of superthermite, or other fun subjects is really a false choice. It is all connected. We can’t just look forward, as the Magic President would have it, we need to also look backward and trace the mysterious, winding route that brought us here. Why? Because we may need to retrace that route to find the way out when the room suddenly fills with acrid smoke.

We may need to retrace along legal lines in order to restore the path of justice. Without justice there is no peace. Without peace there is no civil order, or even civil conversation.

We may need to retrace the origins of classical economics, predicated on limitless expansion and resource extraction to learn what limit-bound steady state economics are all about.

We may need to retrace our scientific inquiry and ethical lines in order to avoid geno-nano doom, lest the Singularity be not wafting space fogs but a uniform bubbling grey goo covering our hot rock from shore to shore as it circles our star without us, perhaps waiting for that distant day when the microbes we seeded to Mars return as cosmonauts in search of the oily black line in Earth’s strata we call the Anthropocene.

We may need to retrace 10,000 years back to the development of plowed earth in order to reclaim a proper carbon balanced agriculture/silvaculture/aquaculture, in order to fend off a future otherwise filled with clathrate fireballs and/or the pervasive rotten egg smell sniffed by dinosaurs after the Chicxulub asteroid impact, a particularly odious way to go.

And when we go back that 10,000 years, we may discover that our ancestors took some other wrong turns along the way, and that was really when they left the garden and went into exile, and perhaps, by a process of exploration and rediscovery, we will experience not only our salvation from converging existential catastrophes, but an orders-of-magnitude improvement in our daily lives -- and the way back to the garden.

That, right there, was our punctuation point.
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