Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin.       [Including 16 photos.]

Where do Mitt Romney’s non-taxpaying moochers go on vacation? I don’t know about the others, but this September I allowed myself three days to explore Campobello Island in New Brunswick off Lubec, Maine, where I wanted to do some serious mooching. By mooching I mean engaging my surroundings with my eyes and my camera, checking on the situations I am apt to get myself into so I can make a fitting response to what’s going on in my world. My partner was ready to take a break, too, so we drove together through Washington County and over the international bridge between Lubec and Campobello, to the island where F.D.R. took vacations long ago before he got polio.

We spent three days in Herring Cove Provincial Park and Roosevelt International Park, as beautiful an area as I have ever been in. Since this was our only vacation all year, we had some heavy mooching to do if it was going to have to last us for twelve months. I took the makings of three breakfasts and three lunches, she provided three dinners. We tented out in Herring Cove Campground, and did little but explore the whole time.

Since I feel obligated to submit a report to Mr. Romney to justify my existence for those three days—on the off-chance he might approve of how I occupied myself—I offer this accounting of how I used my time. We arrived just at dusk, so set up the tent in a hurry, avoiding low ground where rainwater would collect, and then ate a quick dinner. That was Friday night. The forecast for Saturday was wind and rain by early afternoon, so we started out early in the morning by visiting the beach at Cranberry Point. Yes, there was the Lubec Channel Light, just as the brochure said it would be—looking every bit the giant sparkplug they said it resembled. Carole, that’s my partner, suffered from stomach distress, so lay on the shore with a smooth beach stone in each hand to heal herself. And I walked up and down the beach, photographing the Duck Islands, the waves, clouds on the horizon, a painted lady butterfly, the lighthouse, and West Quoddy Light across the channel in the U.S. of A.

When it started to rain, we visited the Roosevelt International Park visitor center, and spent a couple of hours refreshing our memories of F.D.R.s life and presidency. They had fifteen of his notable speeches piped into a cathedral-style table radio, so it was like old times, reminding me of December 7, 1941, when I first heard of the Japanese stealth bombing of Pearl Harbor. If it hadn’t been for F.D.R., I wouldn’t be the moocher I am today, so I had no difficulty paying my respects to his memory.

When the rain let up, we headed for the northern end of the island to visit East Quoddy Light, which a woman walking her dog told us might be turned into guest accommodations. An adult bald eagle was riling up the gulls on the rocks, looking like he (a tercel one-third smaller than a female) was determined to eat one for dinner. He landed on top of a nearby spruce and balanced himself in the wind by much flapping of wings, then dove off and made a fly-by of where we were standing. I got several photos of that foray, before he settled down on the rocks and just sat there eying the gulls, who mercilessly harassed him by diving at his neck from behind.

You get the idea of how I go about mooching by following my nose to whatever looks interesting. I took 355 photos in three days, and the day I got back, made a 106-slide PowerPoint summary of my brief Canadian engagement, a sample of which I include in this blog. That’s the best way of letting Mr. Romney and the rest of the world know what I was doing by actually posting the evidence of my nonstop engagement with birds, flowers, butterflies, stones, beach art, and my partner Carole. That’s how I justify my existence when somebody challenges me, by showing them what I’m up to.

Whether you’re ready or not, here come the photos: 1) The Duck Islands, 2) Herring Cove with storm clouds, 3) shiny black stone on the beach, 4) the eastern horizon (I’m fascinated by that limit to my existence), 5) a bunch of pebbles, 6) more pebbles, 7) sandpiper on Raccoon Beach, 8) two urchins in sea wrack, 9) a new-hatched monarch butterfly, 10) cliff at the end of Herring Cove, 11) folk art made of the rubber bands lobstermen use to bind lobster claws, 12) a spiral engraved in the sand of Herring Cove with a stick, 13) a totem made by piling up beach stones, and 14-16) constructions such as people leave behind when visiting Raccoon Cove on Campobello Island.

The first ten photos are products my actions in engaging the island, the last six are products of other people’s engagements, left behind for posterity to appreciate, then to succumb to the natural forces ruling all engagements on the island.

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That’s the kind of thing I engage with when I and my partner go on vacation. It’s pretty close to my life’s work, engaging the landscapes through which I pass as I go. I see myself as living a life of civility and respect for the wonders of this Earth. At least I don’t make pornographic films, weapons of mass destruction, or money based on bilking others of their life’s savings. I do as little damage as I can, and above all, take responsibility for the workings of my mind because, after all, it’s my mind, and I’m the only one with access to it. My mind directs my behavior, and my behavior affects other people, so I try to set up an exchange of civility as I walk the way of my life.

Oh, yes, this is my 329th post to my blog on consciousness, my effort to understand my personal brand of absurdity so that I can fulfill that last promise to live on peaceful terms with my neighbors by conducting myself as decently, courteously, and respectfully as I can because I know that no one has it easy, and a ruckus from my direction is the last thing anyone needs. Not that I haven’t caused trouble in the past, but I’m getting better by knowing myself up-close and personal, as they used to say on TV, which I know because I was there watching it as recently as twenty-five years ago.

That’s my mooching report for this week. Pretty bland, I would say—especially when compared to the trouble a lot of workers cause by fighting needless wars of aggression, wringing other people’s money out of the economy, keeping people locked up in detention and solitary confinement, shipping jobs overseas, and generally causing mayhem the way politicians and corporate executives like to do to keep folks stirred up and out of sorts so they’ll consume more than they need just to keep the money flowing to the coffers of the well-off and famous.  

Between mooches I work with an estuary and its watershed to keep it in good shape for coming generations, and hang out with remnants of the Occupy Movement in Maine, trying to convert to an assembly for promoting civil exchanges within the local community as opposed to monetary exchanges—as if sports and the economy are all we have to talk about when people get together. How about learning from and about one another, since each one of us is unique and largely unknown to anyone else?

Submitted with humility and sincerity, –Steve of Planet Earth

Reflection 328: Pandemic

October 5, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin.

When overwhelmed by the wackiness of today’s “civilized” world, I often view my own consciousness as a theater of the absurd. What I see is one crank after another bantering about his eccentric view of the world being the one and only view that everyone else should take as a revelation of true reality. Tyrants do it, political leaders do it, holy men do it, as do newscasters, pundits, businessmen, bankers, economists, entertainers, making it seem that a tsunami of craziness has swept over us in the night, engulfing us in a flood of absurdity.

My defense against this flood is to look upon today’s reality as a kind of dream where the conventional social order is overturned in a wild Saturnalia of anything goes. If it can be thought, it will be thought by someone, somewhere. If it can be said, ditto. If it can be done, double ditto. Which is much like many of my nightmares, and creates a sense of frustration similar to how I, powerless in my sleep, react to those dreams.

Except the current pandemic of self-seeking wackiness is no dream. It is the most brutish kind of reality where every man squares off against all others for himself alone to see what he can get by forcing his burden of craziness on the rest of us.

The Supreme Court of the United States of America has assigned the status of personhood to corporations, thereby granting the right of free speech and free spending of money to for-profit entities out to make a killing from the rest of us mere mortals by transferring our personal wealth to their coffers as quickly as possible. That is no way to run a world, and since there’s only one world based on potential consciousness, that is no way to run this world, the one we’ve been born to.

I dream of the possibility of a world based on decency, courtesy, and respect—a world where citizens are civil one to another, and do not base their engagements solely on power and money, that is, on what they can get from others and from the Earth.

Our current passion for competition comes from a false reading of Darwin’s message. We are one human family among our fellow plants and animals, without whom we would not be here. We are not the top dog, the essential nation, the leader of all tribes. Above all, we are not “man-the-wise.” Whatever happened to empathy and humility? Where did we go wrong in selling our souls for (temporary) personal advantage?

We are a primate species, born of a long line of expert tree climbers and leapers, come down to earth, now risen up on two legs and looking for trouble, which we seem to thrive on. Yet we are all mortal beings, heading for certain illness and death, born of woman, conceived by a man and a woman, who were both conceived by male and female going back to the beginning of primate life. The lady in France who said (in French) “I am not a mammal” had it backwards. Because she worked for a company that made baby formula, she imagined herself as a superior being independent of her animal roots. In deep denial, she was being absurd. It is that fatuous quality that now defines us and sets us against who we truly are.

This year’s Republican presidential primary race pitted one candidate against all others, each making preposterous statements based on his or her personal life experience as if it was the basis of universal law. Personal conceit (which I see as a form of ignorance) mixed with a hunger for money ignites the absurdity I see all around us. A pandemic of absurdity, where no one has his feet on the ground but is issuing nonsense out of his mouth as if it came from the Delphic Oracle—from the Priestess herself. Or from Fox News, the Koch brothers, Karl Rove, some infallible Pope or Ayatollah—from ideologues to the Tenth Degree.

We have become the laughing stock of all species, or would be if we didn’t wreak so much waste, havoc, chaos, and misery in our wake. This is what the 13-billion-year history of the universe has brought us to? This has been our destiny all along?

Don’t you believe it! This current pandemic of absurdity is an anomaly, a product of personal avarice and lust for power, a temporary state of affairs brought on by a lapse of judgment in choosing our way in the world based on how we wish to engage one another, seeing others as dupes and fools, not our equals, not our Earthly brothers and sisters.

We are suffering through a breakdown in human engagement, a parody of personal virtue gone musty and rotten. We are using one another as personal property to be used, gutted, and discarded. This is the new slavery, the purchase and abuse of those thought to be lesser beings because of their relative poverty and weakness. Imagine the bundling of mortgages imposed on people who cannot afford the homes they buy because that intentionally unbearable debt adds up to big money to be claimed by those who see the total amount but not the people who owe it as if it were only money, not bundled human lives.

Where, oh where is civility? We are not here to be at our neighbors’ throats, or to do our worst, not our best. We are at the forefront of the history of the universe, ready to engage those who have come with us on the basis of our equality as living beings, not as dispensable victims. If I did not believe in civility, I would be embarrassed to be an American. Instead, I think we have only lost our way because of the worm of self-serving power and profit that has bored into our heads—and we can be healed and set right again in a New Age based on civil engagements that encourage decency, courtesy, and respect.

As it is, we are allowing ourselves and the Earth to be sold short of what we are truly worth—the only seat of consciousness that we have yet discovered—or are ever likely to discover—in the universe. If we keep on as we are going, where will we find the worthy examples to lead us back to our senses? Civility is fragile, the product of eons of collective respect, striving, and cooperation. Are we going to sit by and watch it be taken from us by a vain and wealthy elite that wants to run the world solely on its own terms? We deserve a better fate than that.

As I see it, the only alternative is for us to achieve the civility I am talking about by building it into the heart of our own lives and engagements, thereby refusing to go meekly along with the self-appointed elite, who are really the most forlorn, desperate, and pitiable caricatures of what humanity can be. What choice do we have but to remain staunchly ourselves?

Respectfully, y’r friend and brother, –Steve from Planet Earth

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

I had a powerful dream last night in which I was fully engaged. My idea was that I could tell the detailed composition of gases in Earth’s atmosphere through a program of intensive research around the globe. I could figure the percentage for one gas in one location, and other gases in other locations. I had worked out a very elaborate scheme that would take years to complete. I traveled to an Eastern European university to tell the faculty about my idea, and they listened, but two members broke into a slow folk dance associated with weddings, the gist of the dance being—Why not just do it?, that is, look it up.

I suddenly realized I didn’t have to do the work all by myself because others had done it before me. That came as a revelation. My idea was redundant and unnecessary, no matter how important it might seem to me.

I lay in bed reliving the dream. All the pictures of wildflowers I’d taken this past week were unnecessary. Better pictures were already available, I didn’t have to drive myself so hard to do the work myself. Then I got to the crux of the dream. All the blogging about introspection and consciousness—that, too, was unnecessary. Countless others had their own ideas about what I was figuring out for myself, making my struggles to understand my own mind redundant and unnecessary. Why was I working so hard at figuring what was either unknowable or already known?

Those thoughts reflected the climate in my mind as I’ve written recent posts to my blog. I was driven to write, even though I was pushing past the limits of my understanding, striving for insights that didn’t exist. I have always thought that if I pushed myself hard enough, I could figure anything out. Not true. I was out of my depth—like Wiley Coyote out past the brink of the cliff, legs still pumping thin air.

Hand waving it’s called, going through all sorts of commotions to accomplish nothing at all. My dream invented a language for exposing the whole scheme. “I can do it all by myself!” asserts the three-year-old. Trouble is, I’m seventy-nine.

I’m trying to figure the unfigurable before I wink out. Even though each one of us is given a life to make sense of in his or her own way. I can’t do it for all humanity, though that’s the goal I’ve set myself as I approach the edge of the cliff. The great work; If I don’t do it, who will?

Anyway, I had this dream last night, and I’m still reeling from the effect.

Y’r humbled friend, –Steve

Copyright 2012 by Steve Perrin.

Introspection enables us to balance three aspects of consciousness at the same time:

  1. sensory evidence for there being a world outside ourselves,
  2. the nature of that world as we entertain it in the form of a particular situation, and
  3. how we might choose to respond to that situation if we judge it necessary and appropriate.

So do we play the odds in monitoring the workings of our mind as they fit us to our surroundings in living out our lives through one episode of engagement after another. Put that way, it sounds awkward because I am trying to avoid the general assumption that we simply look upon the world and it shows us its true face and significance, so we know what to do. Not so. More often, we make the world up to suit ourselves at the moment, and often act inappropriately because our guess at a world is often a gross distortion of the world that is out there.

I advocate a rigorous program of introspection to help us from getting it wrong, wrong, wrong again as often as we do—as the media love to shove in our faces in one up-close and personal story after another, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day. The world is in shambles because we act without thinking our situations and engagements through so much of the time.

Instead of asserting ourselves, we would do well to check our first impressions to see if our actions are truly appropriate to our situations, our situations to the sensory input available to us, and the input we seize upon is appropriate to the world we actually live in.

We well may live in the world, but how we engage it is our doing all the way. Our seeing, understanding, and doing are ours alone. Which is why we have to watch ourselves—because no one else can.

We may dub ourselves wise as a species, or claim to be chosen above all others as members of a particular faith or nation, but in truth we each dwell in a niche of one human animal, and how we see, think, and act is our job alone.

A strict regimen of curiosity, doubt, and humility would serve us all well. Too bad it isn’t available in a pill or bottle, on TV or the Web.

Taking hold of ourselves is up to each one of us on his or her own. It starts with a rigorous bout of introspection by which we take ourselves in hand so that slowly, slowly, we can learn to shape up the minds we all have but often subject to careless, cruel, or abusive treatment without qualm.

To change the world for the better, we must start on the inside and work our way out. As yet there is no service or technology available that can do the job for us.

That’s it for today. I’ll do my best to stay on the job. As ever, y’r friend, –Steve

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

We talk a lot about free speech, but hear little about free listening. Yet listening to others is the secret to productive cooperation and engagement. Much talk is about projecting personal opinions onto others. How productive is that? It’s a loser’s game, a cheap substitute for the hard work of developing respect and open mindedness, both of which take listening to what others have learned from their personal experience—and that is bound to be different from what we have learned on our own.

Listening solely to yourself means listening to one person out of seven billion unique individuals. Opening yourself to all those others expands the pool of potential learning, insight, and understanding to an almost infinite degree. Imagine having a staff of advisors so large and so wise. But no, instead of learning what we can, we keep spouting the same stale beliefs handed down through the generations as if they were universal truth itself, suggesting that we have known the answers all along and have no need to listen to those who differ from us.

The wise man on his mountain pinnacle has made every mistake in the book of life, and yet always has one more angle he hasn’t tried, which he is glad to share with us lowlanders as if it were the distillation of universal truth—which it isn’t because it’s the one mistake he hasn’t made up till now. Where are modesty and humility when we need them most?, those priceless attributes of true wisdom. We tell children to keep their mouths shut and ears open, but that’s good advice for grownups as well—to stop talking so we can cock our ears and start listening.

Listening entails opening the inner world in which we live to others. Which doesn’t happen automatically by simply being in their presence. It requires inviting them in. Opening our selves to them. Which may prove dangerous if we let them get too close. But all new learning is dangerous because it forces us to grow—as the birch must rip its own bark in becoming larger.

If we keep to our inner bastions to stay safe, where’s the adventure in that? Where’s the opportunity for discovery, excitement, or friendship? For growing into greater understanding? Fear of what we might expose ourselves to leads us to keep to ourselves in order to preserve who we are without thinking who we might become if we let down our guard.

Listening is the secret to effective engagements with others. It lets them be themselves while we are ourselves. Putting those two together is the adventure of a lifetime. We never know what will happen—except that we will be larger as a result. As I grew larger last night while listening to thunder roll through the hills of Bar Harbor, thunder that spoke to me in emphatic phrases of deep, rumbling complexity. I’d never heard sounds like that before, or never let myself hear them. But there they were, asking me to rise to their level of expression and understanding. I can’t tell you what I learned because it was wholly nonverbal. But those earth sounds were profound, I could tell. Earth was trying to tell me something about how insignificant I am among its wonders, how ignorant I am in claiming to know what I think I know but am surely wrong. Yes, it’s risky listening to such voices. But, I would add, also necessary. Why else are we here?

My personal school of engagement assigns me to listen to thunder as closely as I listen to song sparrows and eagles, to loons and hermit thrushes. To quaking aspen, lapping waves, and sleeping babies. Ears are given us to actively engage our surroundings by forming sensory impressions. Which we recognize as instances of one conceptual category or another, and then fit into an appropriate compartment within our grand field of universal understanding, our personal version of the way of the world as taught through personal experience.

I wish I could say I have treasured my ears as gateways to my smattering of world understanding, but in fact I have carelessly abused them from time to time by listening to the likes of gunshots and internal combustion engines, so, since age forty, my ears have been clanging (more than ringing) ceaselessly for some thirty-nine years—just about half my life. Every voice must compete with that distraction if I am to add it to my repertory of sounds heard. For this I can blame no one but myself. I take full responsibility for this impairment, and the regrets that go with it.

My eyes, too, are not what they were. Since I was a child, I have immensely enjoyed the gift of eyesight, and celebrated it through photography, which allows me to focus carefully on a great many visual wonders. But like my camera itself, which broke down last week and no longer works, my eyesight is perturbed by glare from above, and astigmatism presents me with twin images of even Jupiter’s sparkling moons. My computer hard drives are filled to the last digit with images, serving as a kind of visual autobiography of things I have witnessed during my life—a rough opus composed of gifts received through my eyes.

My listening more aptly applies to sounds people have made in my presence. I have been calibrated by the culture I grew up in to find meaningful those sounds expressed in English, so it is those I pay particular attention to and find great joy in hearing and comprehending as I manage to do. Including my own utterances in response to the sounds others make as I strive to get the most meaning into fewest words for clarity’s sake. Or try to do even though I rarely succeed, more often spouting the usual garble of my authentic inner voice.

Indeed, I truly believe that listening to others is founded on the fine art of listening to oneself. Or can be a fine art if we take care to make sure that what we actually say represents our core feelings and values at the moment. That is, if we use speech to be who we are rather than as a means of charming others into believing what we want them to believe about us.

Personally, I aspire to sing with the simple eloquence of a hermit thrush by actively paying attention to how such birds run the rills that they do. Or to deliver myself like thunder when the situation demands such a voice by studying over and again the richness and tonality of that sound in the original. That is, I learn to talk by listening to the range of sounds I am exposed to, and then choosing from among them the voice I find most apt to the occasion I find myself in.

Last evening I spoke at a hearing on the future management of resources in Taunton Bay, employing the diction I had learned by listening to the bay itself for much of my life. Today at noon I will present a Peace Award to a senior about to graduate from my local high school, relying on the voice of nonviolent engagement I have acquired through long commitment to the Quaker persuasion. As we listen, so do we consider, and then speak. That’s where words come from—the care with which we listen to the voices of every sort around us throughout or lives.

Listening is a primary form of engagement that bestows gifts on us by opening us to the options we have in being ourselves on specific occasions so that when our turn comes to speak, the words we need to say are available in the repertory of sounds we have found personally arousing and meaningful.

Do you hear me? Or is the ringing in your ears too loud so all that you can hear is yourself? In that case, take up not bird-watching but bird-listening. Explore what is possible and you will find a voice that will carry what it is you want to say.

That’s it for today. As always, I remain y’r friend. –Steve

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

The dialogues of Plato provide one contiguous illustration of a loop of engagement in action. One theme, one personality at a time, Plato presents detailed arguments in support of the need to doubt and examine one’s own beliefs in order to attempt a worthy life based on truth, not misjudgment or error.

This blog illustrates my own quest to meet the same challenge.

My book on consciousness is another example of the same effort to answer the eternal question, How do I know that I know what I think I know? Living a life of harmony and integrity depends on making a personal commitment to self-doubt and self-reflection in order to achieve a transparent view of oneself.

Socrates was put to death for asking fellow citizens to self-administer the same test to avoid living hollow lives in imitation of false standards of excellence. But self-assurance and self-doubt are hard to maintain in one mind, so Socrates paid the full price for even raising the issue. As did Jesus many years later.

Calling attention to the difference between living an original in contrast to an imitative life is risky in any era. Orthodox or right-answer people have no room for doubt in their minds. Self-doubt is anathema to the image of personified wisdom and authority they strive to present. So they build systems around themselves in which being rich or powerful passes for being wise. With pretenders in charge, is it a surprise to discover we live in the modern world, such as it is?

We live in an age that reveres sham and deceit where appearance is all, accomplishment counts for little, and the solution to every problem is to apply money in great wads.

Do I sound the least bit jaded? If so, my answer to such a situation is to do all I can to know myself as I am, so to avoid falling in with the crowd. I keep on blogging and writing and self-examining to protect myself against the current plague of self-deception.

I can’t have much effect on other minds, but at least I can face into myself through a weekly round of self-reflection as I am here conducting out in the open before your eyes. The more we personally take on that task, the more powerful we become through self-understanding.

The moral of my tale is we are the ones we have been waiting for. Since we’re already here, if we have complaints, we might as well start looking for solutions within, not without, ourselves. Don’t look to authority to draw you out of the mire, but do it yourself step-by-step. A few days ago I was wallowing in the muck of Muddy Cove; today I stand on dry ground. I call that progress because I am a larger man for making the effort. I maintain this blog as a means of keeping my book up-to-date. Keep on, keep on as long as you can. To the future, then.

How are you doing in this big world of ours? Y’r friend, –Steve

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

Slowly, I have come to realize what I learned by writing Consciousness: The Book. There are two kinds of people walking around in the world, and I have been each of them at different times in my life. I call them knowers and searchers, or members of the right-answer tribe and those of the problem-solving tribe.

Right-answer people know the answer to every question before it is asked because they have studiously memorized all they need to know for the rest of their lives. They carry their book of answers around in their heads, and when they meet an obstacle, they consult the index and go straight to the section that prescribes what to do about it.

This is made possible by studious application of their minds during childhood to whatever book is taken to be the ultimate authority on all issues of importance. They don’t usually have to seek out such a book; it is handed to their innocent selves and they dutifully memorize the great teachings within, calibrating themselves according to the ways and beliefs of the familial culture they are born to.

As adults, they become respected as authorities within their clans, communities, and professions because they can be relied upon to provide a spontaneous solution to every conflict or predicament. As masters of received wisdom, they thrive on the praise and gratitude they receive from those who look up to them.

As a teenager, I was such a person. I knew all there was to know about mathematics, art, science, history, politics, religion, war, to mention but a few of my many conceits. That is, what I knew—no matter how little it might seem—defined all that was true and worth knowing. Ask me any question and I could give a ready answer straight from my heart, for I earnestly believed every word that I said. I was my own greatest fan and admirer for I was convinced I knew everything worth knowing. If I didn’t have a ready answer, the question was trivial and not worth bothering about.

Ah, I fondly recall those heady days when I doubted the world was ready to receive me in the full glory of my understanding.

It has taken me sixty years to descend from what I then thought of as the pinnacle of my career.

Only gradually did I discern that I myself was the problem, my task becoming reframed as having to unlearn everything I was so sure that I knew, and start learning what I could through personal experience. Now in old age I think I have made some progress in those sixty years, and can hold my own for a limited time on a small selection of topics I have grappled with through intimate application of my caring and attention.

If I dare classify myself as a problem solver, it is only in those areas of experience I have grappled with most earnestly for the longest time. In most areas I remain a bumbling novice. I can usually bring back a photographic image of what moves me, and arrange my photos into a PowerPoint that gets my theme across to a small and select audience. What I have become is a seeker of what I call adventures, one who throws himself into the world to feel alive, and usually stumbles upon experiences he has never had or imagined before. My innocence and ignorance are boundless, so no matter what happens, I judge myself fortunate to be alive.

Today, for instance, I finished a presentation on erosion and sea-level rise in Acadia National Park. Not the whole park, just the shoreline of a small picnic area on Thompson Island near the park entrance. I have been following the fate of seven fire rings—barbecue grills for cooking hamburgers over wood-burning fires in the great outdoor. Tracking those rings through the seasons for six years, I have followed them through storms of rain, snow, and ice, through summer heat and winter chill, as the landscape around them is overtaken by waves, overcome, and claimed by the sea, leaving them as much as five feet closer to the shoreline at high tide, now only three of the rings capable of containing a fire if the tide isn’t too high.

That’s the level I operate on now. I know whereof I speak because I have lived my personal adventure every inch of the way. I have felt it with my fingers, smelled it, tasted it on my tongue, heard the roaring of the waves, and seen the lashing of waves against the shore where the fire rings were once though to be snug.

The big adventure, of course, flows from my fascination with the workings of my own mind, which I have largely devoted myself to for the past thirty years. Before I died, I wanted to acquaint one human mind on intimate terms, so I pursued the one mind within reach, which happened to be my own. My goal was to learn how to separate out my own contribution to situations I found myself in so I could see beyond my own shadow to the great world beyond. In my youth, back in the days when I knew everything, I thought my shadow was the world itself, so I was often balked and confused by my my own unique brand of ignorance.

Now I know better, and feel grateful for whatever sunlight illuminates the scene before my eyes so I can reach out to it as myself and not some mythical and pretentious being. Humility is the lesson of living a life, which leads on to familiarity with little things, not the grand dreams of my youth.

Two sorts of people, two stages in a life. I doubt there is any way to leapfrog the prideful stage to get straight to the simpler stage of humility. I think we have to earn our humility in order to begin our true education. I feel fortunate in having survived long enough to see the glimmer of true understanding reflected from the damp and rusty curves of a select group of fire rings before they and I succumb to the waves rising higher and higher upon us.

How have you fared since last I blogged? Y’r friend, –Steve