Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Devil, Fear Of Hell, Cosmos, Chaos And The World To Come

I hope that at least some of you were able to dance into the month of May. Walpurgis Night, witches, bonfires, and a brightly shining waning moon made the transition all the more pleasurable, I suppose. Probably even more so since officially there is no hell.

Sometime around the Easter, to the collective shock of all Catholics, Pope Francis announced that hell did not exist really. At the same time he gave the Satan his due place restoring the formerly outlawed doctrine of Gnostic duality. 

The problem of good and evil and the fear of eternal damnation, made life on earth a pure hell for so many people for such a long time. The entire history of the Catholic Church is washed with blood of countless victims. In fact, all three monotheistic religions make the life impossible. The adherents might tell you something else, of course, but while so many worry about the right food or the right female attire, the new pagans enjoy their witches brew and commune with the devil that actually does not exist. 

Paganism experiences a real revival and more and more people embrace their Shadow. I could write and write about this, but it's Beltane and I want to celebrate and dance around the Maypole. Libraries are full of mind opening literature. Carl Gustav Jung and scholars such as Elaine Pagels, James Frazer, and Mircea Eliade have written wonderful books that invite readers to deep reflection. A reflection that is badly needed in our ever more confused and confusing world.

Happy Beltane!

The Reader


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Earth Day And The World Without Us

"The World Without Us" is a title of a highly readable, intelligently written, and well researched book by Alan Weisman. Published in 2017, this books touches many aspects of our existence on Earth and invites readers to a deep reflection.

As millions of people all over the world are preparing for the annual Earth Day celebrations, it is almost impossible not to notice that despite many nature preserving initiatives not much has changed on our planet since last year. The climate change debate goes on, resources are being mindlessly wasted, and Earth population grows exponentially only to pollute and destroy what is left of natural habitats of so many endangered species.

"Human population growth is probably the single most serious long-term threat to survival. We’re in for a major disaster if it isn’t curbed - not just for the natural world, but for the human world.The more people there are, the more resources they’ll consume, the more pollution they’ll create, the more fighting they will do. We have no option. If it isn’t controlled voluntarily, it will be controlled involuntarily by an increase in disease, starvation and war." - Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

A few weeks ago I saw a poll on Tweeter. Participants were asked to vote on what was their biggest concern for planet Earth: climate change, wasteful use of resources, or environmental pollution. This short-lived poll was freshly published and most participants worried about the climate change. Hardly anybody bothered about the pollution caused by the ever expanding humanity or the wasteful use of resources. In the world that uses the right to pollute as tradable commodity, nothing will ever change for the better. We are like the passengers on an overcrowded ship of fools drifting to our own destruction. The unfortunate thing is that at the same time we are taking so many other species down with us.

So, is it a wonder that some people envision Earth without humans? Environmental pollution, systematic destruction of ecosystems, unsustainable living, mindless ab-use of resources, and uncontrolled population growth, left great parts of the planet in a pitiful shape. In my own lifetime Earth population almost doubled and it is going to double again before this century is over.

In the past wars, natural disasters, famines, genocide, and virulent diseases decimated Earth population over and over again keeping the numbers in check, but thanks to technological advances people are now healthier and more affluent than ever, and there hasn't been a major war for a long time. Small, local conflicts do not cause enough damage, and most diseases do not kill quickly enough to have any impact on the world's population. But maybe when the Earth becomes completely unlivable to humans will our numbers decline rapidly and we eventually vanish leaving this planet to recover from the devastation caused by us.

“The world today has 6.8 billion people. That's heading up to about nine billion. Now if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care and reproductive health services, we could lower that by perhaps 10 or 15 percent.” - Bill Gates

In early 1990s while attending summer semester in Intercultural Communication at university in Portland, Oregon, I came across a leaflet issued by the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement that was launched there in the 1970s. Long before my stay in Portland I made the decision not to have any children and immediately understood the Movement's mission. If only more of us followed, but the subject is delicate and difficult to propagate. There is nothing brutal, sinister, or inhuman here. No one has to die, no violence has to be applied. Rational beings simply have to give up their will to procreate. Weisman talks about this in his book. He also presents a population model where every human female is limited to bearing one child only. In this model, by the year 2100 world's population would drop to the levels of the 19th century or ca. 1, 6 billion. Such drastic reduction in population will allow all the other species still existing on our planet to recover and repopulate the wasteland left by the departed billions of humans.

In 1960s James Lovelock proposed his now slightly forgotten Gaia hypothesis. He envisioned Earth as a living organism that is currently under assault. If we disappeared, the Earth would recover. Things are not that simple, though, since what we are going to leave behind will take ages to dissipate. Weisman presents various scenarios, from the restoration of the changed pH of farmland soil, to the cleanup of water pollution, urban wasteland, and the nuclear waste deposits. Evolution will take its natural turn. The fittest species will survive and adapt to new conditions. New species might evolve and repopulate areas that are today almost devoid of life. Without humans life on earth will go on no matter what damage we have done here. The Chernobyl disaster zone is a clear proof to it: Life has returned and genetically altered or damaged species thrive there now despite all odds.

Earth without humans may seem like a nightmare to most, but it is probably inevitable and even welcome scenario. But while we are still here, we could start taking better care of the environment we live in. So much can be done, so much must be done. Earth Day gatherings and rallies are perfect for the exchange of ideas and implementation of new solutions. Humanity must clean up its act whether we believe in climate change or not. Mindless consumption and careless use of resources must stop, and instead of trading in carbon credits we should allow innovation and try to collectively reduce our carbon footprint.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Earth Day

The Reader

Dominique Allmon@2018

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Suspense Thrillers - Underrated Genre?

Suspense thrillers. You either hate them or love them. For years I have been an avid reader of "serious" literature, historical fiction and non-fiction books that helped me expand my horizons and deepen my knowledge on various subject. My personal, eclectic library grew in size. I read highly acclaimed literary works in four languages and discovered, for myself, many authors and many unforgettable books. Umberto Ecco was one such discovery and I devoured his first novel "The Name Of The Rose" in one gulp, so to say.  

At some point I realized that reading a well written thriller was the best way to relax from my very stressful job. Mystery and suspense took my mind off the things that bothered me and I became a fan of this intellectually sightly underappreciated genre. I discovered Michael Crichton, Dan Brown, Nelson DeMille, John Grisham, David Baldacci, Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, James Rollins, and David Silva, to name only a few. 

Some of the page-turners I red became national bestsellers that were later turned into star-studded movies. The genre fascinates many. Spies, spy masters, assassins, psychopathic killers, cool detectives, corrupt cops, dark characters, losers, winners, gamblers, art thieves, brutal gangsters, mad scientists, femmes fatales... You name it.

Born To Kill

My "transition" to this type of literature wasn't very difficult. I always loved film noir, Alfred Hitchcock, James Bond, and Agatha Christie's novels on screen.

A well written novel would grab me from the start and keep my mind busy  even through the longest flight delay at any airport. Time would simply fly and I would feel relaxed despite all the action, suspense and intrigues in which the protagonists were caught up.

The genre might be dismissed by the intellectuals despite the fact that well written, well researched thrillers offer interesting psychological portraits, possible scenarios, and information on various subjects, and can, without a pretense, expand readers horizons or at least ignite interest in a particular subject, be it art market, stock exchange, historical context, geopolitical theater, or the latest discoveries in forensic science.

I know that many people share my view. I seldom see someone reading Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" or James Joyce's "Ullysses" on the plane. What I often see on intercontinental flights are fellow passengers holding a Wall Street Journal and thriller of some kind under the arm as they are impatiently lining up before boarding a plane. No matter how long the flight, if you can get some shut eye or at least find some time to read your book, you will not even notice the hours spent int the air.

The Reader

Dominique Allmon©2018