Balance Due

Thursday 2011.06.02

In the early eighties, the film Koyaanisqatsi got quite a bit of attention, even if that was mostly while being shown in “art house” sorts of movie theaters. The full title: Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance. Looking up this film on Wikipedia, you find this about the origin and meaning of the title.

According to Hopi Dictionary: Hopìikwa Lavàytutuveni, the word koyaanisqatsi is translated from the Hopi language as “life of moral corruption and turmoil” or “life out of balance”. The prefix koyaanis– means “corrupted” or “chaotic”, and the word qatsi means “life” or “existence”, which literally translates koyaanisqatsi as “chaotic life”. The film also defines the word as “crazy life”, “life in turmoil”, “life disintegrating”, and “a state of life that calls for another way of living”.

Brian Eno once said something that comes to mind now, that I encountered somewhere, years ago, in some magazine article or interview. He was talking about the practice, usually regarding pharmaceuticals, of talking about the desired effect of something and focusing on that, and then talking about “side effects” also associated with that thing. Anything else that came along with the desired goal was described as a “side effect”, almost as if anything in this category was a secondary, insignificant bit of trivia, to be dismissed as a minor, trivial, irrelevant item. Eno was saying that this was nonsense. There are no “effects” and “side effects” to something, all are “effects”, whatever results you get. They all matter.

I think about that occasionally, especially when I see some corporate pharmeceutical advertisement on television. You know the things. Happy smiling people in sunny healthy happy bliss, while a voiceover narration talks about how wonderful your life will become, thanks to this magic pill; then, finally, the voiceover narration drops into a quiet monotone trying to slip under the threshold of your attention, rattling off all the other effects of the stuff that they would prefer you to not notice, mere “side effects“. Eno’s thought comes to front and center. I think we’re looking at a large bunch of problems that are repercussions of dismissing and ignoring things as “side effects”.

I already talked about the U.S. federal government financial situation the last time out here. Decades of enormous spending on the military budget and everything else tucked under the umbrella of “national security”, coupled with three decades of lack of realistic tax policy, have dug an almost incomprehensible hole.

The Social Security system was set up to be financially separated from the rest of the federal government, with citizens paying taxes deducted from their pay over their working lives, to go into the Social Security fund. Despite that structure, over years, Congress has repeatedly “borrowed” (a word that I can only use as a euphemism here), according to an article from last year, around 2.5 trillion dollars, still owed to Social Security, money gone from the Social Security funds, replaced by a batch of “IOU” paper in the form of U.S. Treasury bonds. But, now, as the federal government of the United States is up to over 14 trillion dollars in debt, there are politicians and pundits who want you to believe that a large portion of the blame for this is on the existence of the Social Security program, and that it has to be hacked to death to save us.

Another item that gets my attention is the recent announcement of the elimination of the preparation of reports on energy resources by the United States Energy Information Administration. I’ll get back to this.

The economic circumstances of the moment are a complex disaster. Seriously, where do you even start on this stuff? People will write books about the times. Books are being written now. (Now is probably a good time to repeat a recommendation of The Quants by Scott Patterson.) In any case, that stuff didn’t suddenly develop overnight.

Much of what people have traditionally thought of in terms of business finance and the concept of investment seems almost archaic now. There’s a basic idea that’s easy enough to understand. Investing money in an enterprise of people doing some good, useful, work, making a profit in trading that value for value, and the investors funding this getting a return from the profits for that investment. In recent decades, we’ve had all sorts of contorted distortions of that old basic idea. We saw “leverage”, money loaned into existence and then borrowed, then used as “assets” to use as collateral to borrow more money, and so on. Then cook up systems of massive transactions of every imaginable sort, and cash out sometime before the music stops in some giant insane game of musical chairs. Like I said; where can you even start in talking about this stuff without it being an epic? It’s not a book, it’s a whole set of long books. Just the whole crazy mess of “financial derivatives” alone is too much to contemplate. You might have a clue being presented when Alan Greenspan sits in a television interview and says that he looked at papers laying out derivatives plans and he couldn’t figure out how this was supposed to work.

As Patterson lays out in The Quants, what we collectively refer to as “Wall Street” became dominated by quantitative analysts turning the stock market and securities trading, mediums of investment, into some kind of insanely complex game of statistical math, churning through massive numbers of transactions and figuring out how to take a cut of all of them, and the actual value of work and what any of the entities actually do doesn’t even matter.

Thanks to the whole corporate business concept of “globalization”, the world of work done here in the United States has been mutilated. The real economy. People doing useful good work for the functioning of human life and trading value for value for the mutual benefits of the people involved. A bit in a comedy show said the things made in America were down to “cheeseburgers and porn”. It’s not that bad. A lot of things are still being made here, good people doing good work. But a lot is not. This is a problem. This does not balance. It’s not just about simplistic clichés about “American jobs”. It’s that, and the larger picture of whether or not we have a functioning society. Some people think it’s just fine to have a country consisting of Wal Marts or national corporate chain retail trying to be Wal Mart selling crap all made in China, with people working there for pathetic pay; the previously mentioned machinations and carnie games of “finance”; and endless financing and construction of new buildings in ever expanding concentric rings of suburban sprawl. I’m of the opinion that we have way more than enough empirical evidence at this point to conclude that this isn’t working out well.

The thing about the destruction of American manufacturing, actually making things, is that it’s not just a matter of people no longer making a living making things here. It’s also about a trend toward not just not making things, but also maintaining and repairing things less and less, because, after all, the attitude goes, if something falls apart and fails, hey, fuck it, we’ll just scrap it and go buy new cheap crap (made in China or someplace operating in a similar way). That’s not good. This should be obvious. The further point that doesn’t seem to get much thought; what happens when that endless parade, of diesel fueled ocean freighters crossing the Pacific, and diesel fueled semi trucks with their 53 foot trailers crossing the continent to the Wal Marts, starts to have problems. Notice that I said “when”, not “if”. People are in a zombie daze of delusion about petroleum and how things work, and how this is going to start going.

There was a great article about the devious machinations of Goldman Sachs in Rolling Stone, written by Matt Tiabbi. One slight problem, with an otherwise great article, is that the portion of the article talking about the maneuvering of Goldman Sachs (and others), in oil market games, could mislead people. Reading that, people could find some sort of impression of confirmation of ideas that the only problem regarding oil is “oil speculators”. There’s no argument about whether or not there are major effects on the oil market resulting from assorted people and entities playing market games. Having people thinking that this is all there is to it is a problem, distracting from awareness of the much larger, much more fundamental problems with the future of petroleum.

Right now, people are responding in extremely irrational ways to high gasoline prices here in the US, even though they are, as they generally have been, somewhere around half the cost of gasoline in Europe and the British Isles (which I would imagine, causes interesting reactions there as they hear about Americans bitching about their “high gas prices”).

People can’t process this stuff and understand what’s happening if they don’t know anything about M. King Hubbert, Hubbert’s curve, and the historical statistics.

Crude oil production in the United States peaked around 1970-1971, just as Hubbert had predicted back in 1956, and as you can see by the data, went into post peak decline, just as Hubbert described the phenomenon. The only exception to the downward slope of diminishing returns decline was the very brief bump produced by oil coming from Alaska. Today’s current oil production rates in the US are roughly the same as US oil production flow around 1950.

I ran through a bunch of things in a previous entry, so I won’t repeat all that detail here. What is necessary to repeat, because the things involved just don’t seem to be quite taking hold of the attention of enough people, is that very point; these things are not getting nearly enough attention.

The most popular, and thoroughly misguided, concept of the moment is a massive amount of political chatter about fixing the problem of “high gas prices”, like “increasing domestic oil production” and “exploiting our own oil resources to reduce our dependence on foreign oil”. It appears that there are people who are actually serious about this stuff. This nonsense is completely detached from reality. As I ran through before:

  • When oil extraction rates here in the US are in the diminishing returns downslope of Hubbert’s peak, any new oil extraction has to, first, be enough to offset declines in existing wells and fields, just to maintain steady output, before there can be any increase of oil output over the present rate.
  • We would have to nearly double oil output just to reach what was being pumped out at the US peak 40 years ago, and even if that rate were achieved, it would be less than half of the current oil consumption rate of the US.
  • If you have a finite amount of oil in a given area, and oil output is in decline, because of all the factors involved (explained by Hubbert, and many others), increasing the rate of oil extraction is only speeding up the decline. It only makes the situation worse.

And any increase in US oil extraction is not going to have any significant effect on oil prices, short term or long term.

The general public consensus and state of awareness of the situation with petroleum avoids the one and only answer to “the oil problem”. We have to change how we do things to use much, much, less of the stuff. That’s it. Anything else is fooling ourselves, and the longer that delusion continues, the worse it’s going to be, the problems are only going to get harder. Much harder.

The situation seems something like the phenomenon of overweight people looking around for some magic solution diet plan that’s going to slim them down and looking for and trying the simplest and only real answer; eating less, eating healthier food when you do eat, and being more physically active.

We have to change things to act in accordance with the reality of remaining resources. Anything else is fantasy.

Our ignorance is not so vast as our failure to use what we know. – M. King Hubbert

The biggest problem right now in this department is that too many people still don’t know what the situation is, and don’t seem to want to know.

Back to what I mentioned earlier. Seriously absurd news showed up (very quietly) in the recent announcement that US federal government “cost cutting measures” now include the elimination of US Energy Information Administration work on collecting data and issuing reports on the world’s petroleum situation.

At a moment in time when very few things could be more important to the continuation of functional human civilization than informing both the populace in general, and government officials, about the state of things regarding petroleum resources and use, eliminating this is somebody’s idea of reforming excess government spending. This stunning to anybody paying any attention to this subject, but my astonishment is compounded by the fact that this bit of news has had so little attention. This is being done as the EIA are reported to be cutting $15.2 million from their annual budget. Would you like something as a reference to put things in some perspective? According to the USAF, the cost of ONE B-2 bomber aircraft is approximately $1.157 billion. That takes us right back into the world of absurdity of politicians and pundits barking about government spending and budget deficits and debt, and then making little to no sense in what they say and do about repairing the mess.

One of the last things, for anybody with a bit of sanity left to work with anyway, to be cutting from the US federal government activities, is the work of the EIA to collect, study, organize, and disseminate information on the state of energy resources and use to the citizens of the country and people in office. Cutting this, now, is like getting ready to pilot a ship across the ocean heading into heavy weather, and tossing the radios and radar gear overboard because somebody wants to save weight (while all sorts of other crap of questionable necessity or usefulness stays). But, then, let’s not forget the liars and morons telling you that the US government is in a deep financial hole, but that’s Social Security’s fault.

It definitely does not help matters when so many people are talking about oil resources and quoting large numbers when they’re not actually talking about crude oil, they are talking about tar sands or oil shale. Neither of these are crude oil.

Looking at crude oil, the picture is clear, and while not very well known among most of the general public, the information is not obscure. What people sometimes call the “low hanging fruit” has been devoured. It’s gone. This is the highest quality light sweet crude oil, in the largest collected deposits, in the easiest places to get at (in terms of both geology and physical logistics, and geopolitics). I’ve been over all this, in previous writings here. The deposits of crude oil that were present at the beginning of the Oil Age were a resource of nature that was a onetime windfall. Once used, it’s gone. Despite all sorts of wishful fantasies and plain delusion, nothing else is a substitute for that. The same is true for the other resources under the general category of “fossil fuels” (natural gas, coal).

The documentary The End of Suburbia neatly summarizes the situation we now have here in the United States. The concept that came to be known as “suburbia” came to be considered normal for a large portion of the American population. In this, we ended up with a physical layout and way of doing things where everything is spread out, and separated into compartmentalized areas resulting from single use zoning laws. The result of that is a way of living that finds the places where we live, the places we go to school, the places where we work, the places where we get food and groceries, and everywhere else we go in daily life, all separated miles apart, often dozens of miles apart. All of this is entirely, completely dependent on unrestricted quantities of cheap petroleum. All of this is only possible because of effectively unrestricted quantities of cheap petroleum.

This is how the United States has come to use around 20 million barrels of crude per day, while the entire planet consumes somewhere around 80 to 85 million barrels per day. We have an entire system of living that has come to be regarded as normal, just assumed to be how life works, totally dependent on a particular resource while, by the nature of how the system works, simulaneously depleting that very resource at an astonishing rate. I know I’ve written this before. It bears repeating, until people get this.

In the fifties, the United States began the project of building our gigantic interstate highway system as a way to make motor vehicle transport between cities more efficient and smooth in a large country spanning a continent. Today, while the interstate highways certainly do function that way, many miles of it have actually ended up being used, daily, in everyday life, as “commuter roads”, by people simply travelling between home and work and going about their daily business spread all over. If you live in an American city of any substantial size, you know the results. There are many, a host of “side” effects, but overall, you find a daily ongoing process of using gigantic expanses of paved earth where petroleum burning is the fundamental activity.

There is a whole world of discussion to be had about the habit of describing people as “consumers”. Locusts
consume. This is no way to define ourselves as people, and a way of living. It is very definitely not a way toward any kind of sane plan for the future. The problem is, not only do far too many people seem to not understand the things that seem so ridiculously obvious, some of them, if you tell them about it, will actually argue the point. Their ideas about a healthy economy and a functioning society is all about consumers consuming. Here, now, in the early 21st century, we’re consuming ourselves to death.

The whole giant exercise of American suburban existence is filled with millions of people (not “consumers”) fond of the “effects”, what they see as the benefits of suburbia, going about daily life with little or no awareness of the “side effect” consequences. That might be overstating things a bit, actually. There are quite a few people who question some of it, or have some dim awareness that not all is quite right. The problem is, how many of them go any further with it and really think it through. I do believe that there are probably many, many, people who at least grasp the obvious when it hits them in the face, like, if their long petroleum fueled daily travels are getting more expensive when gasoline prices bounce up. They’ll complain. And they continue to consume.

Many of them will complain about the increasing costs of filling their vehicles, with a high probability of this being an SUV or pickup truck, with petroleum fuel. Depending on what fuels their heads with what I’ll euphemistically call “information”, they are likely to fall into one of two camps; the batch shrieking about “using our own oil”, or the group talking about “big oil companies and OPEC and oil market speculators ripping us off”. Neither one of these is quite dealing with reality, while there are elements of truth that can feed either of these. But that gets into the problem of being simplistic, people craving some short simple easy all encompassing answer in one short sentence, when the matter is way more complicated than that.

Neither group is dealing with old known information: the characteristic patterns of oil discovery and extraction described by M.K. Hubbert decades ago; the historical data that clearly shows that oil extraction rate within the borders of the United States peaked forty years ago. You can punch as many new well holes in the ground as you like, and you just simply are not going to get the amount of oil people want, expect, demand.

It is not going to happen.

It’s worse, as I’ve already said a few times, when people talk about “oil resources” and they’re spewing noise about tar sands (AKA “oil sands”) or oil shale.

Much of the current reaction to oil issues is not unlike some primitive society where problems with farm crops result in an outcry to toss some unfortunate young girl into the local volcano. It’s about that rational, or effective.

Most of what most people regard as normal contemporary life in the United States now rests completely on a basis of petroleum and other fossil fuels, a onetime, limited windfall, as a given assumption. It’s just there, always available, it has become regarded as normal and natural and some God-given birthright that these resources have been there, are always there, and somehow, despite the obvious reality, will always be there, and available for a relatively small amount of money. Like people who view the vitally fundamental matter of “where does your food come from?” like “well, it comes from the big supermarket down the road”, people view virtually everything involved in day to day life outside of their own home in terms of starting with the step number one of “get in the car”.

There’s a lot of assumption, presumption, a world of “status quo”, an attitude like: “this is what the world is and how things are and how things work, this is all I’ve known, so that’s just the way things are naturally supposed to be”. The phenomenon of suburbia and ever expanding suburban sprawl is, in the history of humanity, a brief and recent anomaly as a way of doing things and organizing life, a transient blip in the long term. It didn’t really exist, at least to an extent anything like we know today, until after the end of World War Two, and it will not continue forever. It can’t. But for all but the oldest people of the US population, this is almost all they know, as “normal”. Even the people who have never lived in suburban zones, people who have lived as humanity always lived before, in cities or towns or villages, or in rural country, have been surrounded by the idea that suburban America, and the way it’s organized, is a normal thing. Status quo.

A stop at a gas station to refuel might prompt some bitching about the current price. It would be rare, indeed, to find somebody in that situation aware of Hubbert’s curve, and the peak of US oil extraction forty years ago. It might be tough to even find somebody there at the gas pump who is aware that the price they are looking at is, probably, on any given day, less than half of what people in Europe and the British Isles are paying, once you do the math of converting units and currency. In present day American suburban consumer culture, everything is supposed to just be there, expected, assumed, some sort of God given birthright, just more of it and cheaper, perpetually, with a steady outward march of “growth”. Remove the steady supply of still relatively cheap petroleum, and what will happen? Include removing assorted stuff coming from 10000 to 12000 miles away on the other side of the planet from China, and elsewhere on the other side of the Pacific, when the problems start in the exercise of crossing the world with giant oil fueled freight ships, and what happens?

There was a comment I read online not long ago where somebody said, in regard to oil, “we must do whatever is necessary to keep it plentiful and cheap”. This is not an uncommon attitude. It’s also completely disconnected from reality. That horse left the barn long ago. That ship has sailed. “We must do whatever is necessary to keep oil plentiful and cheap” was an idea for everybody to have in mind and act upon 50 or 60 years ago. That would have helped considerably. It’s a little late now. Now, we’re into a phase where the basic operating idea needs to change to “that’s gone, that’s blown, now, how do we function with petroleum resources declining?”. This is not an optional choice.

Accounts have to balance, and this idea isn’t about just strictly money. It’s how the universe works.

Added to all this fun, of course, in case you haven’t read the papers lately, we have some climate issues here on planet Earth. Naturally, the way things go now, there are mobs of people who act like if you just pretend it isn’t real, and isn’t a problem, then it isn’t real, and isn’t a problem. It’s much more than mere random coincidence that you’ll find most of the same people in this camp also seem convinced that it’s a birthright granted by God and The American Way to fuel their behemoth SUV or pickup and drive it 50-150 miles a day for eternity (and cheaply!).

There isn’t a debate about this. There’s a lot of disagreement, but there’s nothing to debate about it. I’m not going to try to present a case here. I’ll just summarize. Scientists learned how to read what basically amounts to the Earth’s own archival recordkeeping to look back over long stretches of time. From these things, they have determined what temperatures were at points in time, what levels of carbon (mainly in the compound of carbon dioxide) were present in the atmosphere, and corellated them over time. It was found that these things have been cyclical, and there’s a close, synchronized relationship between these two factors. Get into the period of time from the start of the Industrial Revolution, about 150 years ago, when humankind began burning “fossil fuels”, and the carbon levels in the atmosphere took off on a new climb way beyond anything found in past history, when this activity wasn’t happening. In burning the stuff we call fossil fuels, past energy of the sun turned into potential energy locked in chemical form by chemical processes (i.e., fuel), humans started a process of releasing enormous amounts of carbon that had been locked away in the Earth. They know from studies what will happen as a consequence of this in terms of the overall mean temperature of the planet, and, generally, the sorts of things that can be expected in effects on the delicately balanced complex system that is our planet.

There’s nothing to argue. But that doesn’t stop many people from arguing anyway. If they understand and accept reality, it might mean having to change something. That could be inconvenient. What they aren’t understanding is that things are going to change, whether they want to believe it or not, whether it suits their likes or not. There are pretty obvious similarities to a past era where people refused to believe, were sometimes violently opposed to the idea, that, in fact, the Earth was not flat, and was not the center of the universe.

Today, the human race as a whole is blowing through somewhere around 80 to 85 or 86 million barrels of crude oil per day. If that doesn’t get your attention, this works out to approximately 1000 barrels of oil per second. If that doesn’t grab people and shake them around a little, I can’t imagine what will, short of a full on immediate crisis. From what I can see around me, I can only guess that an awful lot of people won’t register any problem until they find that they can’t simply go to a nearby gas station and fill their tank whenever they want or need it, and it’s way more expensive than they imagined it would be.

In the meantime, there’s more to it, obviously, than all of the problems and issues regarding supply and use. Couple the fact that a large portion of that 1000 barrels a second is being burned, converting that chemical potential energy into heat energy, with all the other forms of fuel being burned daily, and we have a couple of major consequences. One is the release of all that heat energy into the Earth’s atmosphere, and the other is the release of all that carbon into the atmosphere, with the greenhouse effect results. All of the above winds itself into a rather large knot of complex interacting problems. This stuff is incredibly complex as it is, and it’s seriously compounding the problems to have everything involved in getting to grips with it all, and working out how we’re going to continue human life without self destructing, all fighting some blasting headwind of petulant ignorance and determined deranged madness.

It’s pretty obvious, to anybody paying any attention, that I frequently mention Hubbert’s description of the characteristic curve patterns of oil discovery and extraction rates, and, as I’ve already said more than once, the reason I hammer on that is dead simple. If you don’t understand that stuff, really absorb it fully into your thinking, it just is not possible to think seriously about the subject of oil. It just is not possible. Without a grasp of that stuff, almost anything you might have in your head about all this is going to be confused, at best, and at worst, complete fictional nonsense. You can do your own hunting around and probably find a bunch of articles that might actually mean well, but have as their whole starting premise phrasing the question “are we running out of oil?”. Once somebody grasps what Hubbert figured out and explained, it’s obvious; the problem is not about “running out“. That’s the wrong fucking question.

Much like the financial mess of the US federal government has not a hope of getting sorted out until we have a strong general consensus based in actual reality about what the problems are, ignorance of the reality of the oil situation is an obstacle to getting anywhere positive. People running on delusion and wishful thinking fantasy won’t help, and will probably make things worse (e.g., making noises about needing to “increase our own oil production” and just running ourselves into the dirt even faster).

Among the people who have a clue or two and a sense of the need to face reality, I find the batch of people generally grouped under the term “New Urbanists“. Their thinking and philosophy is really fairly simple. Humans gradually figured out over a long time how to arrange life on the land. These ways of laying out civilization and functioning in life and work didn’t depend on travelling dozens of miles for every activity. Perhaps, we might do well to reexamine this and rethink how we do things now, here in the United States, and change things moving forward to be a little more functional in line with reality. What a concept!

Any serious examination and public conversation about “the energy problem” is confused, diffused, and diverted by all sorts of wishful thinking and magic fantasies, bad information, assumptions, and simple delusions, anything and everything people can concoct except facing the simplest, obvious, and only practical “solution”. We have to change things to use less of the stuff, oil and any other fuels. The New Urbanism bunch are operating in the realm of reality. That’s a rare and valuable thing now. They are a good example of people dealing with things that need to be dealt with, sensibly, rationally, in a way that is needed.

Cities, before the beginning of suburban sprawl after World War Two (a plan entirely based upon endless cheap oil), were developed with the needs of human life in mind. Before the thinking about cities and their arrangements was changed by petroleum and motor vehicles, practical reality dictated things; life had to be arranged, if things were to function, in the best possible ways to allow human life to function with a minimum of travelling. You had to have things like neighborhoods and districts that could function in an integral sort of way. In other words, they were designed for people. Not cars and trucks. The New Urbanists understand those things, and work on plans to move forward into future living arrangements for cities that get back to this respect for reality in contemporary form.

Before the Oil Age postwar suburban era, cities were founded and grew up around the practical necessities of life and the natural lay of the land. Cities tend to have been founded and developed around bodies of water and tributaries, whenever possible, for the obvious reason of water being a need for human life, but also for another practical matter involved. Through human history, large bodies of water and associated waterways have been transportation routes.

I once heard somebody say that you can travel Interstate 95 along the east coast and see virtually no open rural countryside along the way from Maine to Florida. In some ways, it’s almost like interstate highway interchanges have become something like what ports were in the past. Clusters of building and activity spring up around them. Life alters to revolve around the interstate and everything in that living activity and the layout of places is oriented around motor vehicle traffic. What happens to all this when we have more and more serious problems with keeping the petroleum burning activity going?

This is complicated stuff, but the most basic theme of the future of the United States, and the rest of the world for that matter, is that life is going to get more local again.

I happen to be very fond of automobiles. I like cars, a lot, and have since I was a kid. What I don’t like so much, and I like it less and less as I see what has happened, what is happening, and what’s coming, is the way that things have developed in recent decades so that more and more, in the United States, in terms of how the places where we live are arranged, and the way things work, for most of the country, doing virtually anything in life outside of your home involves trips by automobile. The result is blowing though the one time windfall resource of petroleum at an astounding rate, this is now a serious problem that can only get worse, and it’s getting worse rapidly. At about a thousand barrels per second.

An Australian friend posted a comment on his Facebook page as a “status update” about people going to gyms to spend a session on a treadmill machine going through the motions of walking in place while going nowhere; he gets the same sort of exercise without a gym club membership, he calls this exercise “walking my ass down to the corner store”. That was just perfect. My thought was to consider the usual story of this kind of thing he was observing: people leaving their home, getting in a motor vehicle, driving to the gym to perform their ritual of walking motions, and then getting back in the car and making the return trip. Humans are funny critters. Just inexplicable sometimes.

Some people react to any of the kind of things I’ve been talking about and react badly. If you listen to some people, they react with horror and indignation and maybe even full on outrage. You’ll find loads of people who will talk as if you’re suggesting that we all ditch anything resembling modern civilization and wind back the clock to some miserable primitive existence. The irony of the treadmill people is too obvious to believe that it might even need any explanation, yet we’re living in a time now where you can easily find yourself surrounded by people who see nothing wrong with the idea, and not only that, might think you’re strange for even thinking there’s anything questionable about it.

We have quite a batch of things needing some serious review and reality checking.

“Sit, be still, and listen
for you are drunk and we are at the edge of the roof.”
– Rumi, Sufi mystic

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