Travel is Optional, But Freedom from Fear Isn’t


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I’ve been living abroad for about five years now, and spent about a third of the year in various banana republics for a few years half a decade before that. I’ve come to the conclusion that contentment can strike you anywhere, but not under all circumstances. If you’re terrified about money, you won’t find peace of mind anywhere, anytime.

I’m an American economic refugee here in Thailand, living reasonably well in a place that never seems to amaze me with all the interesting options it offers a geezer such as me. Sure, there are plenty of expatriates who have more money than me, but I don’t waste much time envying them. I have enough money as it is. If an opportunity arose to make more, I might consider it, but not at the cost of jeopardizing what I already have.

I rent a large, four bedroom house with a garden for about what a medium…

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A General Lack of Expertise


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Now that anyone with the time and interest can command an audience on social media or via blogs, we are faced with an interesting phenomena. Many people who command large audiences don’t know what they’re talking about. I may well be one of them.

 

When I offer opinions on politics, or engage in ridiculing people I’ve never met, dissing nations I’ve never visited, and continue to spread rumors that I’ve only recently heard or read, I’m probably not making the world a better place. I’m just another noisemaker, a cricket sawing his legs together on a balmy night. But unlike the cricket, I may actually be doing harm by echoing (Facebook calls it “sharing”) the opinions of others.

 

Some things are true and others aren’t. There may be important differences that are too subtle to be made explicit in a catchy headline or alarming photo. Often, the gap between true and false is small enough so it doesn’t matter a whole lot, but at other times it might make all the difference in the world. It might result in nuclear war.

 

So maybe sharing my hastily acquired and sloppily reasoned opinions isn’t really a civic duty at all.

 

What do I really know about Putin or Trump? Israel and Palestine? Iran and Iraq? I met a guy from Syria once. He had me over to his house for tea. Does that make me an expert on Syria?

 

If  this shocking lack of expertise were confined to me, the problem could be quickly dealt with. Delete my Facebook and YouTube accounts. Erase this blog. But it’s not just about me, and in fact, I’m not even a major player. I’m just an retired guy with too much time on his hands and too many prejudices to be able to claim an open mind.

 

There is no gatekeeper anymore. Broadcasting has been supplanted by the Internet, and there’s no process for telling fact from fiction. Walter Cronkite was a newsman. I’m not. He had a staff of fact-checkers. I don’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Another Day in Paradise


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I was on my way to a funeral today at the leper colony near my home when I stopped to pick the flowers of Brugmansia, Angel’s Trumpet, a powerful hallucinogen. It contains scopolamine, among other psychoactive chemicals.

The hallucinogenic effects of Brugmansia were described in the journal Pathology as “terrifying rather than pleasurable”.[28] The author Christina Pratt, in An Encyclopedia of Shamanism, says that “Brugmansia induces a powerful trance with violent and unpleasant effects, sickening after effects, and at times temporary insanity”.[19] These hallucinations are often characterized by complete loss of awareness that one is hallucinating, disconnection from reality, and amnesia of the episode, such as one example reported in Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience of a young man who amputated his own penis and tongue after drinking only 1 cup of Brugmansia tea

In 1994 in Florida, 112 people were admitted to hospitals from ingesting Brugmansia.[31] The concentrations of alkaloids in…

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A Fevered Brain Sets the World On Fire


Nobody knows what’s really going on, or which events are important and which are trivial. We only learn these things in retrospect. When they’re happening, we can’t see the forest for the trees.

Feelings of urgency rarely lead to good decisions. Maybe once we could trust Walter Cronkite to tell us the news, but now we are awash in a million websites, most of which are written by people no more knowledgeable or literate than ourselves.

Our mental state is a choice. We can allow our minds to be full of schemes, resentments, tangled desires, contradictory impulses…or we can simply choose not to listen to all that. Say “thank you for sharing” and then move on.

It seems like America is the monkey mind personified as of late. Blame and boasting dominate. Domination is the goal. It’s a fight for our very life, so there’s no holding back. Somebody must be utterly destroyed.

This would be funny or curious if the stakes weren’t real. The rest of the world is as queasy as we are. Stock and precious metal markets are uncertain, gyrating wildly. The poor stand to lose a lot. The most vulnerable may suffer the most.

The first world war began with the assassination of a relatively minor head of state in Bosnia. Nobody at that time could have predicted it would lead to the deaths of 17 million people.

Not much good comes from chaos. Sure, it shakes things up, but the net result is rarely favorable. The Quakers and other pacifists are right when they say that violence in thought and speech leads to actual violence. It begins with naming. The only way we can kill the children of our enemies is to name them first as “the enemy.” They aren’t Vietnamese women and children, they’re Viet Cong. We weren’t bombing the people of Laos, we were stopping supply lines along the Ho Chi Minh trail. All it takes is that simple shift in consciousness, and killing becomes not only permissible but a patriotic act.

 

here is a link to a recording of the author reading this essay

 

Only 30 Minutes From Home


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It gets stunning. The Samoeng Road is basically a continuation of a highway that runs East-West about a mile south of me. In twenty minutes I’m in the mountains, in thirty I’m up high where the air is cooler, fresher, and the views are stunning. This is the end of the wet season, so everything is as green as it’s gonna get.

If anybody in the area wants me to show you where this is and you have a scooter, let’s ride!

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Do What You Want, Have Fun


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The things that are worth caring about and striving for don’t have to do with fads or whatever happens to be the current topic of conversation. Those constructs are largely illusory anyway. Most of the buzz on the street is no more than traffic noise.

 

George Orwell defined journalism as “writing something that somebody doesn’t want to see printed. All the rest is public relations.” Most of the messages we see are advertising, calls to shop. If we don’t want to fill our time with shopping, we’ll have to find something else with which to occupy ourselves. As you can see, I’ve gone to great lengths not to end that last sentence with a conjunction.

 

I enjoy writing both because I think I’m pretty good at it, and because I think I have something to say. Many people find writing a tedious activity and have little to say. I’m always happy when these people don’t write. After years of reading English Composition essays at the college level, I think there is no more tortuous activity that reading a commenting on the writing of someone who didn’t want to write in the first place.

 

One of the biggest disservices schooling provides is to demand that people learn to do things for which they have even less aptitude than interest. Even if they do manage to struggle through some required course work, they will never have any fun doing so, nor will anyone else enjoy the outcome. It will be purgatory on Earth, hoping for a payoff in the Great Beyond. This is folly, a transparent hoax, a confidence game to justify the existence of schools.

 

People should do things they enjoy, and in doing so they might please both themselves and others. Why this simple concept has eluded us for the last couple of centuries is a real mystery. The notion of mandatory public schooling probably comes from Northern European capitalism and the desire to train a compliant workforce.