Adonis Diaries

Archive for August 1st, 2016

3 moments that might convince you

That Edgar Allan Poe was a time traveler.

In the case of Poe, it was his fiction that was stranger than fiction.

My life has been whim — impulse — passion — a longing for solitude — a scorn of all things present, in an earnest desire for the future

I’m pretty positive that Edgar Allan Poe had (has?) the power to travel through time.

Hear me out on this one.

It’s not just the well-known circumstances of his life — orphaned at a young age, father of the mystery novel, master of cryptology, maestro of the macabre.

Nor am I referring to the head-scratching details of the days leading up to his death: how he was found on the street near a voting poll wearing someone else’s clothes, and during his subsequent hospitalization, he was alleged to babble incoherently about an unidentified person named “Reynolds.”

And I won’t even get into the confounding reports of a nameless figure who, for seven decades, would show up to Poe’s gravesite in the early hours of his birthday with a glass of cognac and three roses.

Tragic and curious, yes, but hardly evidence that the acclaimed horror writer could transcend the limits of space and time.

No, my time travel theory concerns the author’s creative output, which you’ll soon see is so flukishly prophetic as to make my outlandish claim seem plausible — nay, probable!

The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is a loosely linked map of flesh-eating floaters, crunched skull survivors, and primordial particles.

Reine Azzi shared this link

Published in 1838, Poe’s only completed novel details a mutiny on a whaling ship lost at sea. Out of supplies, the men revert to cannibalism, drawing straws to elect a sacrifice. A boy named Richard Parker draws the shortest straw and is subsequently eaten.

Here’s where it gets weird(er):

In 1884, 46 years after the novel’s publication, four men would be set adrift following the sinking of their yacht. Shipwrecked and without food, they too would go the survival cannibalism route, electing to kill and eat a 17-year-old cabin boy. The boy’s name: Richard Parker.

The extraordinary parallel went unnoticed for nearly a century, until a widely-circulated letter from a descendant of the real Parker outlined the similarities between the novel’s scene and the actual event.

The letter was selected for publication in The Sunday Times after journalist Arthur Koestler put out a call for tales of “striking coincidence.”

In 1848, a railroad worker named Phineas Gage suffered a traumatic brain injury after taking an iron spike through the skull. Somehow he survived, though his personality would change drastically.

These behavioral changes were closely studied, allowing the medical community to develop the first understanding of the role played by the frontal lobe on social cognition.

Except for Poe, who’d inexplicably understood the profound personality changes caused by frontal lobe syndrome nearly a decade earlier.

In 1840, he penned a characteristically gruesome story called “The Businessman” about an unnamed narrator who suffers a traumatic head injury as a young boy, leading to a life of obsessive regularity and violent, sociopathic outbursts.

Poe’s grasp of frontal lobe syndrome is so precise that neurologist Eric Altshuler wrote, “There’s a dozen symptoms and he knows every single one… There’s everything in that story, we’ve hardly learned anything more.”

Altshuler, who, to reiterate, is a medically-licensed neurologist and not at all a crackpot, went on to say, “It’s so exact that it’s just weird, it’s like he had a time machine.”

Still unconvinced? What if I told you that Poe predicted the origins of the universe 80 years before modern science would begin to formulate the Big Bang theory?

Surely, an amateur stargazer with no formal training in cosmology could not accurately describe the machinery of the universe, rejecting widely-held inaccuracies while solving a theoretical paradox that had bewildered astronomers since Kepler. Except that’s exactly what happened.

The prophetic vision came in the form of “Eureka,” a 150-page prose poem critically panned for its complexity and regarded by many as the work of a madman. Written in the final year of Poe’s life, “Eureka” describes an expanding universe that began in “one instantaneous flash” derived from a single “primordial particle.”

Poe goes on to put forth the first legitimate solution to Olbers’ paradox — the question of why, given the vast number of stars in the universe, the night sky is dark — by explaining that light from the expanding universe had not yet reached our solar system.

When Edward Robert Harrison published “Darkness at Night” in 1987, he credited “Eureka” as having anticipated his findings.

In an interview with Nautilus, Italian astronomer Alberto Cappi speaks of Poe’s prescience, admitting, “It’s surprising that Poe arrived at his dynamically evolving universe because there was no observational or theoretical evidence suggesting such a possibility. No astronomer in Poe’s day could imagine a non-static universe.”

What if his written prophecies — on the cannibalistic demise of Richard Parker, the symptoms of frontal lobe syndrome, and the Big Bang theory — were merely reportage from his journey through the extratemporal continuum?

Surely I sound like a tinfoil-capped loon, but maybe, there are many more prophecies scattered throughout the author’s work, a possibility made all the more likely by the fact that, as The New York Times notes, “Poe was so undervalued for so long, there is not a lot of Poe-related material around.”

I’ll leave you with this quote, taken from a letter that Poe wrote to James Russell Lowell in 1844, in which he apologizes for his absence and slothfulness:

“I live continually in a reverie of the future. I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity.

Man is now only more active — not more happy — nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago.

The result will never vary — and to suppose that it will, is to suppose that the foregone man has lived in vain — that the foregone time is but the rudiment of the future — that the myriads who have perished have not been upon equal footing with ourselves — nor are we with our posterity.

I cannot agree to lose sight of man the individual, in man the mass… You speak of “an estimate of my life” — and, from what I have already said, you will see that I have none to give.

I have been too deeply conscious of the mutability and evanescence of temporal things, to give any continuous effort to anything — to be consistent in anything.

My life has been whim — impulse — passion — a longing for solitude — a scorn of all things present, in an earnest desire for the future.”

What may happen next with Brexit and Trump?

Brexit is almost done. And Trump?

[note: this essay contains a lot of links out, which are underlined. Consider them further reading or me backing up my opinions]

It seems we’re entering another of those stupid seasons humans impose on themselves at fairly regular intervals. I am sketching out here opinions based on information and they’re intended just to challenge and be part of a wider dialogue.

My background is archaeology, history and anthropology. It leads me to look at big historical patterns.

My theory is that most peoples’ perspective of history is limited to the experience communicated by their parents and grandparents, so 50–100 years. To go beyond that you have to read, study, and learn to untangle the propaganda that is inevitable in all telling of history.

In a nutshell, at university I would fail a paper if I didn’t compare at least two, if not three opposing views on a topic. Taking one telling of events as gospel doesn’t wash in the comparative analytical method of research that forms the core of British academia. (I can’t speak for other systems, but they’re definitely not all alike in this way).

So zooming out, we humans have a habit of going into phases of mass destruction, generally self imposed to some extent or another. This handy list shows all the wars over time.

Wars are actually the norm for humans, but every now and then something big comes along. I am interested in the Black Death, which devastated Europe.

Joanna Choukeir Hojeily and Jean Hakim shared a link.
medium.com/@theonlytoby/h…|By Tobias Stone

The opening of Boccaccio’s Decameron describes Florence in the grips of the Plague. It is as beyond imagination as the Somme, Hiroshima, or the Holocaust. I mean, you quite literally can’t put yourself there and imagine what it was like. For those in the midst of the Plague it must have felt like the end of the world. (How classified as war?)

But a defining feature of humans is their resilience. To us now it seems obvious that we survived the Plague, but to people at the time it must have seemed incredible that their society continued afterwards.

Indeed, many takes on the effects of the Black Death are that it had a positive impact in the long term. Well summed up here: “By targeting frail people of all ages, and killing them by the hundreds of thousands within an extremely short period of time, the Black Death might have represented a strong force of natural selection and removed the weakest individuals on a very broad scale within Europe,“  (It harvested very strong people too. Nothing to do with physical weaknesses)

…In addition, the Black Death significantly changed the social structure of some European regions. Tragic depopulation created the shortage of working people. This shortage caused wages to rise. Products prices fell too. Consequently, standards of living increased. For instance, people started to consume more food of higher quality.”

But for the people living through it, as with the World Wars, Soviet Famines, Holocaust, it must have felt inconceivable that humans could rise up from it.

The collapse of the Roman Empire, Black Death, Spanish Inquisition, Thirty Years War, War of the Roses, English Civil War… it’s a long list. Events of massive destruction from which humanity recovered and move on, often in better shape. (Not convincing a reasoning for the better shape conjecture)

At a local level in time people think things are fine, then things rapidly spiral out of control until they become unstoppable, and we wreak massive destruction on ourselves. For the people living in the midst of this it is hard to see happening and hard to understand.

To historians later it all makes sense and we see clearly how one thing led to another. During the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme I was struck that it was a direct outcome of the assassination of an Austrian Arch Duke in Bosnia. I very much doubt anyone at the time thought the killing of a minor European royal would lead to the death of 17 million people.

My point is that this is a cycle.

It happens again, but as most people only have a 50–100 year historical perspective they don’t see that it’s happening again. As the events that led to the First World War unfolded, there were a few brilliant minds who started to warn that something big was wrong, that the web of treaties across Europe could lead to a war, but they were dismissed as hysterical, mad, or fools, as is always the way, and as people who worry about Putin, Brexit, and Trump are dismissed now.

Then after the War to end all Wars, we went and had another one. Again, for a historian it was quite predictable. Lead people to feel they have lost control of their country and destiny, people look for scapegoats, a charismatic leader captures the popular mood, and singles out that scapegoat. He talks in rhetoric that has no detail, and drums up anger and hatred. Soon the masses start to move as one, without any logic driving their actions, and the whole becomes unstoppable.

That was Hitler, but it was also Mussolini, Stalin, Putin, Mugabe, and so many more. Mugabe is a very good case in point. He whipped up national anger and hatred towards the land owning white minority (who happened to know how to run farms), and seized their land to redistribute to the people, in a great populist move which in the end unravelled the economy and farming industry and left the people in possession of land, but starving.

See also the famines created by the Soviet Union, and the one caused by the Chinese Communists last century in which 20–40 million people died. It seems inconceivable that people could create a situation in which tens of millions of people die without reason, but we do it again and again.

But at the time people don’t realise they’re embarking on a route that will lead to a destruction period. They think they’re right, they’re cheered on by jeering angry mobs, their critics are mocked. This cycle, the one we saw for example from the Treaty of Versailles, to the rise of Hitler, to the Second World War, appears to be happening again.

But as with before, most people cannot see it because:

1. They are only looking at the present, not the past or future

2. They are only looking immediately around them, not at how events connect globally

3. Most people don’t read, think, challenge, or hear opposing views

Trump is doing this in America.

Those of us with some oversight from history can see it happening. Read this brilliant, long essay in the New York magazine to understand how Plato described all this, and it is happening just as he predicted. Trump says he will Make America Great Again, when in fact America is currently great, according to pretty well any statistics.

He is using passion, anger, and rhetoric in the same way all his predecessors did — a charismatic narcissist who feeds on the crowd to become ever stronger, creating a cult around himself. You can blame society, politicians, the media, for America getting to the point that it’s ready for Trump, but the bigger historical picture is that history generally plays out the same way each time someone like him becomes the boss.

On a wider stage, zoom out some more, Russia is a dictatorship with a charismatic leader using fear and passion to establish a cult around himself. Turkey is now there too. Hungary, Poland, Slovakia are heading that way, and across Europe more Trumps and Putins are waiting in the wings, in fact funded by Putin, waiting for the popular tide to turn their way.

(As if Russia had amassed enough financial capital to bestow on so many countries. I have the impression this article main purpose is to target Russia as the villain, and totally ignoring the main Evil in US foreign policies)

We should be asking ourselves what our Archduke Ferdinand moment will be. How will an apparently small event trigger another period of massive destruction. We see Brexit, Trump, Putin in isolation. The world does not work that way — all things are connected and affecting each other.

I have pro-Brexit friends who say ‘oh, you’re going to blame that on Brexit too??’ But they don’t realise that actually, yes, historians will trace neat lines from apparently unrelated events back to major political and social shifts like Brexit.

Brexit — a group of angry people winning a fight — easily inspires other groups of angry people to start a similar fight, empowered with the idea that they may win. That alone can trigger chain reactions.

A nuclear explosion is not caused by one atom splitting, but by the impact of the first atom that splits causing multiple other atoms near it to split, and they in turn causing multiple atoms to split. The exponential increase in atoms splitting, and their combined energy is the bomb. That is how World War One started and, ironically how World War Two ended.

An example of how Brexit could lead to a nuclear war could be this: (Oh Oh. This is going too far)

Brexit in the UK causes Italy or France to have a similar referendum. Le Pen wins an election in France. Europe now has a fractured EU. The EU, for all its many awful faults, has prevented a war in Europe for longer than ever before.

The EU is also a major force in suppressing Putin’s military ambitions. European sanctions on Russia really hit the economy, and helped temper Russia’s attacks on Ukraine (there is a reason bad guys always want a weaker European Union). Trump wins in the US. Trump becomes isolationist, which weakens NATO. He has already said he would not automatically honour NATO commitments in the face of a Russian attack on the Baltics.

With a fractured EU, and weakened NATO, Putin, facing an ongoing economic and social crisis in Russia, needs another foreign distraction around which to rally his people. He funds far right anti-EU activists in Latvia, who then create a reason for an uprising of the Russian Latvians in the East of the country (the EU border with Russia). Russia sends ‘peace keeping forces’ and ‘aid lorries’ into Latvia, as it did in Georgia, and in Ukraine. He annexes Eastern Latvia as he did Eastern Ukraine (Crimea has the same population as Latvia, by the way).

A divided Europe, with the leaders of France, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and others now pro-Russia, anti-EU, and funded by Putin, overrule calls for sanctions or a military response. NATO is slow to respond: Trump does not want America to be involved, and a large part of Europe is indifferent or blocking any action.

Russia, seeing no real resistance to their actions, move further into Latvia, and then into Eastern Estonia and Lithuania. The Baltic States declare war on Russia and start to retaliate, as they have now been invaded so have no choice. Half of Europe sides with them, a few countries remain neutral, and a few side with Russia. Where does Turkey stand on this? How does ISIS respond to a new war in Europe? Who uses a nuclear weapon first? (The USA will re-use the A-bomb first again: It has the habit and the hand)

This is just one Arch Duke Ferdinand scenario. The number of possible scenarios are infinite due to the massive complexity of the many moving parts. And of course many of them lead to nothing happening.

But based on history we are due another period of destruction, and based on history all the indicators are that we are entering one. (The world had been in wars for the last 60 years: the frequency of pre-emptive wars and manufactured civil wars surpassed the number of all wars since antiquity)

It will come in ways we can’t see coming, and will spin out of control so fast people won’t be able to stop it. Historians will look back and make sense of it all and wonder how we could all have been so naïve. How could I sit in a nice café in London, writing this, without wanting to run away.

How could people read it and make sarcastic and dismissive comments about how pro-Remain people should stop whining, and how we shouldn’t blame everything on Brexit. Others will read this and sneer at me for saying America is in great shape, that Trump is a possible future Hitler (and yes, Godwin’s Law. But my comparison is to another narcissistic, charismatic leader fanning flames of hatred until things spiral out of control).

It’s easy to jump to conclusions that oppose pessimistic predictions based on the weight of history and learning. Trump won against the other Republicans in debates by countering their claims by calling them names and dismissing them. It’s an easy route but the wrong one.

Ignoring and mocking the experts , as people are doing around Brexit and Trump’s campaign, is no different to ignoring a doctor who tells you to stop smoking, and then finding later you’ve developed incurable cancer. A little thing leads to an unstoppable destruction that could have been prevented if you’d listened and thought a bit. But people smoke, and people die from it. That is the way of the human.

So I feel it’s all inevitable. I don’t know what it will be, but we are entering a bad phase.  (Have we ever entered a good phase?)

It will be unpleasant for those living through it, maybe even will unravel into being hellish and beyond imagination. Humans will come out the other side, recover, and move on.

The human race will be fine, changed, maybe better. But for those at the sharp end — for the thousands of Turkish teachers who just got fired, for the Turkish journalists and lawyers in prison, for the Russian dissidents in gulags, for people lying wounded in French hospitals after terrorist attacks, for those yet to fall, this will be their Somme. (What? Not a word about the million refugees? About the thousands dying in civil wars and famine?…)

What can we do? Well, again, looking back, probably not much. The liberal intellectuals are always in the minority. See Clay Shirky’s Twitter Storm on this point. The people who see that open societies, being nice to other people, not being racist, not fighting wars, is a better way to live, they generally end up losing these fights. They don’t fight dirty. They are terrible at appealing to the populace. They are less violent, so end up in prisons, camps, and graves.

(What the author is suggesting again to avoid calamities? Very confused. A pack of conjectures Not related to the subject matter)

We need to beware not to become divided (see: Labour party), we need to avoid getting lost in arguing through facts and logic, and counter the populist messages of passion and anger with our own similar messages. We need to understand and use social media. We need to harness a different fear.

Fear of another World War nearly stopped World War 2, but didn’t. We need to avoid our own echo chambers. Trump and Putin supporters don’t read the Guardian, so writing there is just reassuring our friends. We need to find a way to bridge from our closed groups to other closed groups, try to cross the ever widening social divides.

Virgin wilderness, Pablo Neruda, blood, wind, libertad, Americana; (July 23, 2009)

Two huasos (Argentine cow-boys gauchos), ride with fury; they rear up in front of the garden.  With one hand, one of the uncles carries little Pablo Neruda behind him on the rump of the horse (ride pillion); the other uncle is carrying a tied up sheep.

They gallop full wind to the sun set, to the shadow of a large tree with a crackling bonfire.  The muchachos fire their guns in the air; an uncle slid the sheep’s throat; the creamy blood is collected; Pablo drinks a cup full.  Songs on love, corazon, and guitar strumming fill the air.

I saw shadows, faces sprouting

Like plants around our roots, parents

Singing romance in the shadow of a tree

Running among the wet horses.

Women hidden in the shadow

Of masculine towers,

Galops whipping the light,

Rare nights of anger, dogs barking.

Chili is a continent in longitude, spanning a length as vast as from Norway to Senegal in Africa. Chili extends from the tropics all the way down to Antarctica and squeezed naturally between the Andes mountain chains to the Pacific.

All kinds of climates can be experienced when riding the rail from north to south.  Chili was never subjugated by any king or a colonial power.

Whitman, Thoreau, and Melville chanted the wilderness of North America: the background of these chants was a world already made, in a state of exploitation for profit.

Neruda is chanting a wilderness with peasants and workers toiling on a savage world to be made. White, black, and Indian, in utter poverty, have no time to compare the color of their skins; they want to get out of the same life of misery.

The South Americans chant liberty and freedom in every moment and at every occasion. Neruda is the son of “a silent, mother of clay“:

What I saw first were the trees,

Ravines adorned in flowers, wild beauty,

Humid territory, forest ablaze,

And winter behind the world, overflowed.

My childhood, those wet shoes,

Tree trunks broken,

Fallen in the jungle, devoured by lichen.

Pablo was born in 1904 as Ricardo Neftali Reyes Morales; he used his pen name (pseudo name) Pablo Neruda because of the Check poet Jan Neruda.

His mother died of tuberculosis shortly after he was given birth.  Pablo’s dad Jose remarried Rosa Opazo who took care of Pablo as his real mother.  Jose Reyes constructed railways:

My dad sneaks out in the obscure dawn.

Toward what lost archipelagos these trains are howling?

Later, I liked the smell of coal in the fume;

The burned oil, and the precise frozen axes.

Suddenly, the doors rattled. It is my dad.

The centurions of the railway surround him:

Their wet coats inundate the house with steam.

Reports invade the dining room; wine bottles are emptied.

I capture the suffering, the crying, the dark scars, men with no money,

The mineral claws of poverty.

This part is a short biography for anyone interested.

Pablo moved to Santiago in 1921 and studied French literature. Since 1927 he was successively appointed consul in Rangoon, in Sirilanka, then Batavia (Java) where he married the first time with Marie-Antoinette Vogelzanz (Maruca; a Dutch).

Pablo was then consul in Singapore, Barcelona in 1934. His daughter Malva Marina was born in Madrid. Pablo is consul in Madrid in 1935.

The Spanish civil started and Garcia Lorca is assassinated. Neruda writes his first political poem “Chant to mothers of assassinated militiamen” and was relieved of his official functions.


adonis49

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