I did druidry in the little room off the kitchen this morning: the rite of the pentagram, and the central ray exercise, and some meditation. Then, in the office, I did tai chi: two tai chi forms, and twenty-five pushups ( I could/should have done thirty), then two more tai chi forms, then Five Golden Coins, then two more tai chi forms. That’s two tai chi forms less and one qi gong form less, than what I think of as my overall goal. But it felt like enough. I was decently sweaty by the end, enough that I didn’t sit right down and write my entry; I wanted to shower first.
After showering, I walked a few blocks to my coffee house (which is, by the way, the best in New England). It’s really the first Sunday of autumn here in the US, which means that churches are going back to their fall schedules instead of being on the ‘light summer attendance’ schedule. I could hear the bells of Saint Sebastian’s in the distance, and lots of people were going into the Congregational Church (which is built of Portland brownstone in an English Perpendicular style, with stained glass. John Calvin would be horrified). Inside the coffee house, the heathens were busy telling religious jokes and musician jokes (“What’s the difference between a trombone and a ’57 Chevy? You can tune the Chevy.”).
The work of willpower that I talked about yesterday, and Gordon’s cogent reminder about the power of links to shape the Internet, has suggested that there’s value in reporting about not just what I did, but also what I’ve been reading. And that means, just as I have used this to keep a record of what has happened, I should be thinking about where we’re going. To that end, I offer a couple of cogent lessons in willpower. Here’s an emerging 16-year-old celebrity chef, an article I found while reading about the emergence of Chaos Magic as a trend in fashion design. I don’t understand how those two things combine yet, but maybe I will someday soon. The image of the “Walled World” came up yesterday in something that I was reading, and I think that everyone should see this image, and consider how the recent refugee crisis in Hungary plays into this — part of this wall has been breached, and it has long-range consequences. I don’t want to say that those consequences are all bad, either. But neither do I think we should just assume it’s happening a world away; when one wall is breached, it’s usually the case that the whole wall falls sooner or later; the Mexico wall is the one that Americans should think about carefully, because even if it’s built a la Trump, it will not remain long. Perhaps it would be better to consider what it means to be the sugar or the milk in the tea, what it means to be a minority in a land of many interacting cultures.
Along those lines… we also need to be more aware of our own internal walls. There are realities which we are not comfortable confronting. And it doesn’t help that the business world is working to privatize information and pools of skills that used to be open to all. Our emerging Internet of Things (IoT) is actually built upon the assumption that we can be robbed by the makers of said IoT infrastructure. Here’s this bit about how copyright law makes it profitable to convince you to throw away ink cartridges that still have 20% of their ink volume in them:
Eleven years [after a 2004 court ruling], something funny has happened to toner cartridges: they’ve gotten a lot smarter. Off-the-shelf controllers for disposable consumables like cartridges (and smart lightbulbs, and a thousand other IoT gewgaws) have real, no-fooling copyrighted works — sometimes whole operating systems.
The companies that have come to rely on DMCA 1201 include John Deere (its tractors’ wheel-sensors collect centimeter-accurate soil-density maps that it keeps secret from farmers and monetizes by using to predict regional crop yields ahead of the market); GM (who use DRM on engine diagnostic data to lock out third party mechanics who might buy parts from its competition), as well as companies that make voting machines, insulin pumps, implanted defibrillators and pacemakers, mobile devices, and many, many others.
So, think about that. Epson has figured out a way to make you waste 20% of your purchased product, and it accrues to them as profit. How many of us have pulled a toner cartridge out of a photocopier, shaken it up, and put it back in, just to try to squeeze out a few more pages from a ‘low toner’ alert light? I know I have. Now John Deere says you don’t own the data that your tractor collects on your own land. Your mobile device monitors where you are, your pacemaker or defibrillator can kill you, your voting machine may count your vote for the paper tally as part of the total but award the office to the other guy. Important medical machines can be made to malfunction despite safeguards, to collect data … or possibly kill the person with the implant. What does it mean that an insulin pump can be hacked?
How does daily practice of tai chi and druidry — or really, any system of spiritual or physical development — help us cope with these things? Well, for one thing, a system of physical development such as a martial art helps keep us physically fit, so that we’re healthy to confront the world’s changes. And ideally, a system of spiritual development helps us understand the process of change, both in ourselves and in the world around us. I can look at the trends I’ve identified — the growing trend of collapse of the world’s walls between haves and have-nots, the increasing responsibilities of communities to establish cultural networks, so that they can be the sugar in the tea, and the general responsibility to own up to the injustices of the past.
Because the future that’s coming is inhuman. It’s built on robotic motives, that say that humans are not going to drive cars, that our internet is going to rob. Can you imagine what happens when the internet of things hooks into our k-cup system into the waste-as-profit and secret-software-as-profit-margin?
The Sci-Fi author Charles Stross has made a career out of reminding people that we don’t live in the world we think we do. For example, here in my apartment is a thermostat, a tv (over my objections, but it’s here), a computer, a fan, and some other bits of tech. Of them, as near as I can tell, only the fan doesn’t have an implanted computer of some kind. We’re not going to live in a future of rocket ships and jet packs, as near as I can tell; but we are going to live in a world of robots, at least for a short while… and those robots are going to be shoddy and designed to rip us off.
In this sort of world, knowing how to be your own spiritual counselor, your own fitness coach, is a step toward independence. Knowing how to be your own chef, your own cleaner, your own teacher, your own entertainer, these are important next steps. Food and drink, as Ivy has suggested elsewhere, is even more foundational. But everyone has to begin somewhere.
This is where. This is how. I began.