Monday, March 23, 2020
Readers will recall two weeks ago, on the last full moon, I speculated on the effect moon phases have on us humans, and the difference between the force of the full moon compared to the new moon, and I told the story of a maternity nurse who said there are more births on new moon than full moon. I promised to return to the subject on the next new moon, which was last night.
I wanted to do justice to this effort and recalled that the New Moon Club, of which I'm a proud member had not met in many moons, not since one of our members, Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster, suffered serious mental trauma from the Communication Death Ray, said by some to have been personally invented by President Trump (see below, The Babel of Trump Tower). So I made a telepathic call for a New Moon Club meeting which was answered (telepathically) in the affirmative within minutes by all members: Robert, Betty the Coyote Creator Goddess, Jesus and Gandalf the Wizard.
At 7pm last night I set out from my weathered cabin in Pearblossom, walking over the soft rolling desert carrying water, a Nature Valley Sweet 'n Salty Granola Bar (which I find enhances my telepathic abilities) and a flashlight, since the new moon entails no moon.
After trudging for some minutes I came over a mound and there were my companions, seated around a smoldering fire tended by Gandalf, who poked it with his staff. Robert was speaking when I arrived.
...so it's a brand new struggle, replacing that between Trump and national capitalism...."
Robert became silent and turned to look at me as I approached, seeming to resent my interruption. The others smiled. They sat on leveled chunks of stone in this order: Gandalf, Betty, Jesus and Robert, with a stone reserved for me between Jesus and Robert.
"Continue please, Robert," I said, as I settled on my rock, "By the way, did you say that Trump struggles against national capitalism? I thought he represented national, or nationalistic capitalism."
"No," retorted Robert, "He represents global capitalism. That's why his policies are so destructive to the nation."
"Trump's response to the coronavirus would seem to argue your point, Robert," I said quickly. You don't want to start a conversation with Robert by implying that he is wrong. Gilas don't have an equivalent in their language for "wrong." The closest term literally means, "mortally wounded."
I continued, "Robert, what struggle are you talking about?"
Robert explained, "Reports indicate that the White House, in its evolving policy on the coronavirus pandemic, is divided between what I call national interests, which include making people's health paramount, and global interests which define 'health' as global cash flow."
"We should note," said Betty, "that the primary beneficiaries of the bailout money are large corporations. Small business, in fact small anything, are directed under the bus."
"Indeed!" spat Robert.
Betty continued, "The shutdown of businesses and jobs has its own death count (though it is often a count of living-death) which is just as real as the death count of the virus. People are destroyed either way, and it's not clear that the virus-caused deaths will outnumber the shutdown caused deaths. Medical leaders downplay that aspect."
Readers might find it implausible that a retired nightclub mind-reader would be out in the desert absorbing ideas about human society from active or semi-retired deities, a character from a novel and a talking lizard, but it just shows the lengths one has to go to these days to find decent conversation.
"Robert," said Jesus, "Your thesis reminds me of the dichotomy my followers faced between personalized, small groups and the mass following that developed - no pun intended. The term 'Catholic,' after all, comes from the Latin: Kata, 'with respect to,' plus holos, 'whole,' meaning the whole of everybody are members of a catholic church. It turns out that spirituality comes in local and international forms too."
"Which way represents your views best?" asked Robert.
"That's not easy to answer," said Jesus.
Betty intervened, "Robert, you can find deficits and benefits inherent in both small and large human organizations. I don't think you're implying that large organized religions are always spiritually inferior to small ones."
"No, I'm not, " said Robert, "and large corporations are not inherently bad; many have been creative, inventing and developing critical human technology. It is not automatically bad to be big, or global."
"Then what's bad about the current assault by bigness?" I asked.
"What's bad, " explained Robert, "is that this invasion of global interests into America's response to the pandemic is disguised as domestic policy, much as people's obsession with the Dow Jones is disguised as a domestic concern. Money itself is no longer domestic. And as noted- your foreign policy is as much impacted by global interests as your pandemic policy."
Gandalf, who I think tries to overcome his origins in a fictional place (Middle-earth) by making occasional germain comments about our universe, did so: "I agree, Americans face a paradox: If they go to war, they will think they are being nationalistic, but they will not be serving nationalism."
"Gandalf," I asked, "You lived through a type of world war in The Lord of the Rings. How was that different from our wars? When you arrived at Frodo's hobbit hole that day and told him of danger abroad, were you an internationalist or what?"
Gandalf was unruffled: "The point is that I told the hobbits the truth. I did not mischaracterize the protagonists. Sauron et al were exactly the threats I made them out to be. You didn't need to wonder if it was an international concern or domestic; it was both. But when you hear about your enemies, you are given cover stories to disguise who they actually are."
"One important cover story is unravelling," said Betty, "as it is now clear that the Trump White House is balancing the health of citizens, which in Robert's formulation is a national interest, against 'productivity' and 'growth,' terms which, thanks to your media, have acquired strong positive connotations, but which can now be identified as global interests that are not necessarily positive."
"Amen," said Robert.
"If I may change the subject slightly," I said, "I'd like to point out that tonight is new moon, as the title of our club suggests. I called this meeting to address the question on everyone's mind: 'Do moon phases affect human behavior?'"
"That question has not been on my mind," Robert mumbled.
"I know. I was being funny," I explained.
"Oh," said Robert.
"Sorry, Robert, I forgot that gilas have no concept of humor. For humans, the world would be unbearable without it. But you will be gratified to know that you are not at all funny."
Robert said nothing but stared into the fire and spat. He was clearly insulted.
Betty, who usually acts as our moderator and peacemaker, said, "Robert, I think all Harry is suggesting is that the struggle between global and national interests has reached a head exactly on a new moon. That's interesting enough, don't you think, whether anything is funny or not?"
Robert spat and remained silent. I wondered if there was any point, after all, to this meeting. We settled into our private thoughts, and it became comforting just to sit around a fire in the middle of nowhere with friends. Words are overrated, sometimes.
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
One late afternoon this week I was sitting in my combination study/ kitchen/ bedroom/living room staring absently through the open window at the desert haze when I felt a familiar tingling in my head, followed by the (telepathically transmitted) sultry voice of Betty the Coyote Creator Goddess, aka The Trickster. Her purpose was to alert me that humans living in Los Angeles and the surrounding sprawl are behaving in a way she has not seen before in thousands of years of monitoring our species.
Harry, she said in my head, everyone has withdrawn to their shelters and are coming out as little as possible. Schools and businesses are closed and people are facing financial ruin.
A virus called the corona has appeared and is stalking humanity.
Oh yeah, I read about it. Has it become a major killer?
There is potential that it will.
Betty, I'm always interested in your findings, but I can't say I "care" about this in the conventional sense.
Harry, your indifference to your own species is sad.
It's not indifference; it's hostility.
That's sad too. You only dislike your species because it is currently out of whack, disorganized and confused.
Once you humans get your act together, you'll be awesome.
Thanks for that thought, Betty! In your opinion are people overreacting to this virus?
It's hard to say, but the most remarkable thing, Harry, is that people are complying with the drastic orders.
Are they complying because they are afraid of the virus?
In part. The story is alarming: A virus leaps from a bat to a human and is expected to continue leaping, killing many in its path, until it has deposited its progeny in humans everywhere. There is no natural immunity to the virus and no antibiotic for it.
Yeah, scary. Also there are plenty of conspiracy theories, like that it escaped from a lab, or is a weapon of some group against another. Betty, as a deity, can you tell me what this virus really is?
It's more than one thing, Harry. One thing it is, is a virus. Its origin, though, is varied. Whether it came from a lab, or from evolution, or from a deity- it wasn't me, by the way....
We chuckled telepathically.
...wherever the virus came from, it also came from your own human minds, your own need, which beckoned it into existence.
Betty, that's a tough sell. Are you saying we wished for the virus?
No. I'm saying you wished for some force that would impede you, that would slow down your lonely mindless march. The virus heard your need and sprang forth.
Betty, you are never going to win the Nobel prize for science. How many people have died from the virus in L.A.?
I thought about that for a moment.
Given the current low death rate, Betty, I'm surprised too at the widespread compliance with sheltering in place, abandoning of businesses and schools. Is anyone resisting, from any demographic?
There's some resistance from financial interests, religious groups and beachgoers, but society at large is compliant.
That's a conundrum!
It sure is! Betty called out as she sailed through the open window, landing at my feet and calmly sitting on her haunches.
Hi Betty, I get the feeling you have something planned for us.
I do. Is you car working?
Betty was referring to my 2007 Camry hybrid, which waits patiently in the dirt beside my house for weekly trips to the Family Dollar Store.
Where are we going?
Los Angeles. I need to do some readings in the field.
Within minutes we were heading south on the 14, planning the jagged route of freeways to downtown L.A. Traffic was light due to the statewide confinement. Betty sat on the front seat, using a bit of her "magic" to create a dog aura that disguised both her coyote and deity aspects. I use the term "magic" in quotes because, although the things Betty can do are as mechanistic as anything we understand, since we can't understand them, they're magic.
We transitioned to the 5 south and soon crossed the 210 and were surrounded by vast urbanity, the creosotes replaced by palm trees. Betty sniffed the air from the partly rolled down window. After a few minutes she said:
Harry, I'm already getting the information I need, but I guess it's de rigueur to park and walk around.
You already know what you need to know?
Pretty much. But let's park someplace and walk around, just in case I missed something.
The sun had set behind the Griffith Park hills to our west. I got off the freeway at Los Feliz, turned south on Riverside and drove randomly for a while, until we ended up in Atwater Village, a cross-hatch of railroad tracks, warehouses and a thriving artistic community.
I parked on Glendale Boulevard. Betty and I got out and walked past empty shops that were usually bustling.
So Betty, what are you learning? Why are people so compliant with the radical requirements? It can't just be because they're afraid of the virus.
No, it's not.
We approached a young mother wearing a face mask and pushing a baby in a stroller. The mother veered a few inches away from us, and I felt Betty amp up her dog aura (she can also create the illusion of a leash). When the sidewalk was empty again, Betty resumed her thoughts.
Harry, people are segregating themselves into small units, whether familial, tribal- whatever is the smallest denomination of belonging they can find in society. They do this in compliance with authority, but they also want to do it.
Humans are afraid of the gigantic civilizations they have built, because they are unstable structures, fashioned in a hurry by unstable humans. Dealing with other people has become fraught, since the context for human relations is increasingly unclear. Going forth into civilization is dangerous. People like the idea of hiding from the "world," like a coyote in her burrow.
What do you mean, that we are "unstable"?
Betty paused, considering, I guessed, how to soften her words for me.
Humans evolved to deal with extreme instability. Unlike deer or tortoises or butterflies, you did not adapt to a specific environment. The human environment has been a kaleidoscope of change since the animals pushed you out of the motherland. Your real ambition is to get back in, though you go about it in strange ways.
Imagine!, I exclaimed, marvelling at the ironies of life, I'm walking down Glendale Boulevard with a coyote who is lecturing me about human instability. Betty, why can't we make a stable environment and make ourselves be stable?
Your difficulties are understandable. You've had no opportunity to evolve; it's been one disaster after another, whether self-inflicted or otherwise. Humans need a break.
I don't think we're about to get one, I sighed as we got back in the Camry.
I'd have to agree, Betty said. In summation, then, people are in the mood to shelter in place, thus the compliance. How long they remain in that mood is a question.
That's a question alright, I responded with a lack of brilliance and insight that effectively ended the conversation. Thirty minutes later I parked on my dirt driveway and we said goodnight.