Archive for category Fiction

Physical Suffering in Quantum Life, PI

torture

(Note:  this is part 12 of a series called “Quantum Life,” in which I post the contents of a strange ‘guide book’ I found for a game called “Quantum Life.”  It is in English, which the book calls a “Quantum Life language,” unable to capture all the complexities of the world as it really is.   I’m not sure where this book came from – these next sections on suffering are fascinating).

Physical Suffering PI:  Pain directly inflicted by players on other players

In the early trials of Quantum Life Sunitolp and the designers were shocked by the level of cruelty and the lack of empathy of the first players.   People were doing horrific things to each other and causing considerable suffering.   The trial was terminated and the future of Quantum Life was in doubt.

The working theory had been that separateness from the natural unity of existence would leave individuals lonely and vulnerable, leading players to experience emotions in the Quantum Life realm much more intensely than in the real world.  It was expected people would have fear, sorrow, joy, and anger – emotions we know exists within unity of all, but which are balanced and evened out by the fact we are all connected.

What they did not expect is that these emotions could lead individuals to engage in actions that were so barbaric.    Many wanted to call off the game right there – clearly separation from the unity of all is a pain so horrid that it leads to atrocious acts.    Why go there?

Upon returning to the real world  players described the intense pain they felt both suffering and, after the game, on realizing how they inflicted suffering.  That pain was quickly relieved by immersion into the unity of all existence, but it was clear that Quantum Life had provided a troubling experience.

Sunitolp’s Argument

Just when it appeared Quantum Life would not get beyond the trial stage, Sunitolp made one last pitch.  He was countering the argument that said that Quantum Life was dangerous in that it causes suffering and leads normal people to engage in atrocities that may harm them, even when they’re back in the comforting realm of the real, unified world.  Experiencing separation is unnatural, sadistic and masochistic.

Sensing the collective will shifting against him, Sonitolp made an impassioned plea.   “Were we not once separate, like the players in Quantum Life?   While we experience unity, are we not still individuals, me with an idea, trying to convince you to allow me to move forward?   We need to look inside to who we really are.   Yes, our unity creates a world of contentment and joy – and that proves that our nature is more pure than evil.  Yet our nature also allows fear, which leads to anger, suffering and hate.

“Allow me to make some revisions to the program, and assess it then.  But don’t we owe it to ourselves to learn the deepest aspects of our nature – to learn perhaps what we were in the long lost pre-history of our world?  This is a voyage of discovery, of exploration to the very nature of what kind of beings we are, both individually and collectively.  It cannot help but make us grow!”  Sunitolp swayed the collective.

Four major additions were made to how the program writes itself based on choices players make:

Empathy allows players to understand that each of them is a subject, not a mere object

Empathy allows players to understand that each of them is a subject, not a mere object

Empathy:   The early trial of the game went so far in trying to create the illusion of  complete separation/individualism that players saw other players as objects rather than subjects.  Players were used to being part of a unified whole, and didn’t differentiate between the objects of their new world (trees, rain, dirt, etc.) and the other players.   Pure separation, or even the illusion thereof, led to disintegration of a player’s sense of moral restraint.   Therefore a part of the real world was made more evident, so players could feel that others are like themselves.

Synchronicity:   In the early trial people suffered by chance – if one player decided to stab another, the stabbing victim was random.   What Sunitolp and his engineers had to do was devise a way in which people could let their connection with the real world (sometimes called the spiritual realm, or “God”) guide their actions.   The fullness of synchronicity is dealt with later in this manual, but in the case of suffering it helps assure that players who suffer/inflict pain are those who can learn something from the experience.

Through synchronicity events and probable events are choreographed in a way that benefits the players

Through synchronicity events and probable events are choreographed in a way that benefits the players

Karma:  As noted in the section on evil, Karma is a way in which players experience consequences for their actions.   Great rewards go to those who can endure suffering with grace and without themselves fall into the trap of wanting others to suffer.   While suffering itself is not to be sought, karma assures that the sufferer will have experiences that mitigate the pain and provide opportunities for joy.   Karma also works to create lessons for those who inflict suffering.  Since all is one, punishment or revenge would be irrational – the sufferer and perpetrator are aspects of the same whole.  However, learning of how to overcome being one who inflicts suffering benefits the whole.

Enveloping:  When physical pain and suffering get extremely intense, the program allows more access to the real world, so that the sufferer is enveloped by a sense of the greater unity.  This does not make pain and suffering go away, but keeps it bearable, as if time speeds up.    The enveloping often is experienced as rage or anger, as those aspects of what we are can help overcome extreme distress.  In fact, one theory is that the existence of hate and anger in our nature is because it helps overcome pain of suffering.

During the game, suffering, like evil, seems contrary to any belief in a natural unity.  People are angered by injustice, which reflects imbalance.  In the real world unity creates a natural balance we take for granted; lacking that the Quantum Life world is imbalanced in a multitude of ways.

Dramatic physical suffering directly inflicted by others isn’t the only form of suffering.   It can also be a consequence of culture, or a chain of actions that indirectly lead to suffering, even though there is no clear perpetrator.

—–  (end of today’s transcribing)

Earlier posts in the Quantum Life series:

Quantum Life – August 3, 2010
How to Play Quantum Life – August 4, 2010
Why Play Quantum Life – August 5, 2010
The Soul in Quantum Life – August 20, 2010
Getting Started with Quantum Life – October 1, 2010
Quantum Life: Birth and Pre-Birth – November 22, 2010
Quantum Life:  Childhood – July 20, 2012
Quantum Life: Obstacles – July 29, 2012
Quantum Life: Empaths and Extensions – August 8, 2012
Evil in Quantum Life – October 8, 2012
Mates in Quantum Life – May 9, 2013

2 Comments

Mates in Quantum Life

mates1

(Note:  this is part 11 of a series called “Quantum Life,” in which I post the contents of a strange ‘guide book’ I found for a game called “Quantum Life.”  It is in English, which the book calls a “Quantum Life language,” unable to capture all the complexities of the world as it really is.   I’m not sure where this book came from).

Picking up where I left off, the next section in this ‘guidebook’ is “Mates”:

Quantum life creates the illusion of individual identity, hiding knowledge of the inherent unity of all existence.  It is out of this alone-ness that players experience emotions, situations, and challenges that do not exist in the unified real world.   However, as players overcome fear and start recognizing the inherent unity of all existence, they also have access to more knowledge about the real world.

A mate is different than the kind of agreement quantum life players make between rounds to meet as friends or choose parents.   Mates are innately drawn to each other regardless of the context of the game.   They are in tune with each other outside the game, and those harmonies penetrate into the Quantum Life reality.  Most players are closed off from such connections, but advanced players can experience an enhanced level of joy in finding a true mate.

Recognizing Mates:    For players caught up in the game – level one players focused on the material – mates are rarely recognized as such.   Fear blinds the inner knowledge that they are connected, and at best their lives connect serendipitously at various points.   At level two mates often meet to help each other see the importance of connection and spirit above material concerns.   They can develop into true friends and grow closer during a given round of play, helping each other advance.   Advanced players can have stunningly powerful relationships and generally have an easier time recognizing mates.

Empaths can literally feel the energy of a mate.   The connection they share from past games and even in the real world is strong; they feel hit by a force beyond anything they’ve ever experienced, drawn magnetically to their mate.   Most others  intuitively feel a powerful attraction.  Mates usually come together in three forms:

True Friends/Siblings:    Mates often come together as friends who have a special bond and who can share with each other everything, helping them through Quantum Life’s challenges.  True friends can be closer than most spouses, even if each has a loving relationship.   There is something mystical about their friendship that both recognize.  At times two siblings are also mates, and share an intensity in the family experience.

friends

Chance encounters:  Sometimes mates are not together for a long portion of their lives.  Their particular game paths may have them going different directions in a given round of play.  But they can manage to appear at a time when needed – to save a life, to help each other make a good decision, or to alter the course of an individual destiny in a given round of play.   The encounter may be brief, but powerful.

Soul mates:  Sometimes the mate is a spouse or life-partner, and the two build a life together and experience the joy of unity at a profound level.   This is rare, but represents the closest experience in the Quantum Life world to the joy experienced through the unity of the real world.   Soul mates tend to balance and compliment each other, teaching and learning together.  However, to truly experience the bliss of unity, they have to avoid the temptation to build walls and be seduced by the culture around them.  This means they may met later in life after working through a variety of challenges.

If they choose to be open and honest, sharing completely without fear,  they’ll find themselves in a love profoundly deep and mystical.    They will sense of taste a the true reality where all is united, and bring a bit of that into the Quantum Life world.   It will reflect itself in their lives at every level – physically, intellectually, emotionally and with their families.  Soul mates find their lives riddled with synchronicities they draw to themselves.  Sex becomes more than a material, physical act, but a physical expression of a love transcending the Quantum Life world.

Choosing the path of total honesty and acceptance is harder than finding each other.   Each has to risk bearing their soul and rejecting the protective walls and barriers that most individuals playing Quantum Life feel necessary to build.   The risk is worth it; soul mates experience a level of pure joy that very few approach while in the game.  It is a taste of the real world.   If this path is chosen, both implicitly recognize that their true home is not the Quantum Life world.

What draws mates of any sort to each other is a deep connection at a core level; they are close to each other in the real world, just as they are in the Quantum Life world.

acceptance

Honesty and Acceptance: 
Mates only develop a powerful bond and experience true joy if they are able to be completely open with each other.  They must be honest about their own thoughts, experiences and emotions, and must accept unconditionally the validity of the others’ experiences, thoughts and emotions.   They share secrets rather than keep them.  They do not hide part of themselves out of fear of what the other might think.  They do not judge the other, but understand.

That signifies the true meaning of Love.   Love is a misunderstood term in Quantum Life, often connected with emotions of fear – jealousy, envy, pride or false desire.   Mates love because they accept each other as they are, and do not hide who they are.   Without such honesty true love is impossible.   Mates – true friends or soul mates – can help each other awaken a powerful love inside the Quantum Life world that can ripple through the entire game, impacting every life they touch.   It is the personal expression within the game of the love that defines existence in the real world.

OK, enough transcribing for today.   Here are links to past entries in the quantum life series:

Quantum Life – August 3, 2010
How to Play Quantum Life – August 4, 2010
Why Play Quantum Life – August 5, 2010
The Soul in Quantum Life – August 20, 2010
Getting Started with Quantum Life – October 1, 2010
Quantum Life: Birth and Pre-Birth – November 22, 2010
Quantum Life:  Childhood – July 20, 2012
Quantum Life: Obstacles – July 29, 2012
Quantum Life: Empaths and Extensions – August 8, 2012
Evil in Quantum Life – October 8, 2012

2 Comments

Dreams

The Studentenheim in Bonn

The Studentenheim in Bonn

I have just posted a spiritual fantasy called “Dreams.”     The heroine Jenny finds herself in a different reality, able among other things to enter into the dreams of others – past, present and future.   Go read it if you’re into that kind of thing!   I wrote it about 20 years ago and have given up on ever having it published.  However, more than anything I’ve ever written it outlines my core beliefs about life, including speculation about the nature of reality.  Read that and you know me, even 20 years after the fact.

The story had an odd genesis.   While I was studying in Germany I had the pleasure to spend a chunk of time in a Studentenheim (dorm) in Bonn on the Endernicher Allee.  When everyone left for Christmas I stayed in my room.    I could have gone to visit friends elsewhere in Germany, but I wanted a little bit of time alone — I had been traveling all through November as I shifted from staying in Berlin to Bonn, and wanted some time by myself.

On December 25th I took a magical train ride through the snowy Moselle valley (I had a German rail pass I was using up), eating my Christmas dinner at the Frankfurt train station.   On the 26th I took another train ride, finishing my rail pass.  That evening the Letsch family – caretakers for the Studentenheim – invited me for Raclette.  I drank at least two liters of beer and enjoyed a wonderful evening.

The next morning – December 27th – I awoke at about 4:00 AM.   I had been listening to a CD from the former Supertramp member Roger Hodgson Eye of the Storm quite a bit that week.   It has strong spiritual undertones, and the time alone had me in an introspective mood.   I woke up with a story in my head.  I grabbed my Zeos 280 laptop and started typing.

It was like that for the next two and a half days.   All day on the 27th and 28th I was in my dorm room, typing out this story.  I’d run out of ideas, take a break and lay down…and then get up as new ideas popped in my head.   I finished it on the 29th, a sunny bright day.   “Wow,” I said to myself, “where did that come from!?”

I then went for a run through downtown Bonn and along the Rhein river, finally getting outside after spending nearly three days consumed by this story.     I thought I had something really good – I printed it out, made copies, gave it to friends, many of whom reacted positively to the ideas.    A couple said it was remarkable and inspiring.   I looked into publishing it a few times, but with no luck.  I would share it with people I thought might enjoy it and for awhile fantasized about getting it published and maybe even becoming a full time author.   But that was a pipe dream – I write too much like an academic!

This morning I started a blog post in which I mentioned how I used to keep a journal of my dreams, including lucid dreams.    I had interesting encounters with vicious dogs in those dreams, and some of that had worked its way into my story.    I put that post aside and decided to post my story for anyone who might be interested in a story I still feel really close to.

So I’d be honored if any of you take the time to read my story Dreams.

2 Comments

Quantum Life: Obstacles

(Note, this is part 8 of a series called “Quantum Life,” in which I post the contents of a strange ‘guide book’ I found for a game called “Quantum Life.”  It is in English, which the book calls a “Quantum Life language,” unable to capture all thecomplexities of the world as it really is.  I’m not sure where this book came from).  If this reads very strange to those following my blog, click the link above and look at the basic premise of this series and earlier entries.  Picking up where I left off, the next section is “Purpose and Meaning”:

PURPOSE AND MEANING

After childhood the player enters what is known in quantum life reality as adulthood.  However, that is simply a term that reflects the physical development of the player in the quantum life world.    In reality childhood is designed to prepare the player for challenges to be faced throughout the rest of any round of play (life).  The most important component is purpose.   Every quantum life player has a purpose.   Many fulfill their purpose in childhood and their round ends.   Most experienced players, however, have a variety of challenges beyond childhood.

Purpose is a hard term to define using a quantum life language  like English.  In essence it is the core reason for this round of play — a goal, a particular challenge or lesson the player wants to internalize so that it is carried over to future rounds of play.   It gets associated with meaning in that a player is more attuned to their purpose when they experience life as meaningful.   The two are linked in a very powerful way.   Ideally the quest for meaning in life (or the sense of engaging in something meaningful) should keep people focused on their purpose.

That formula — using the measure of meaningfulness in life to tell if one is fulfilling ones’ purpose — sounds easy, and care is taken between rounds of play to try to make meaning as clear as possible.   However, within the game itself there are a myriad of factors that either hide meaning for create a false sense of meaning, often completely misleading the player.

Two main obstacles emerge that can prevent a player from recognizing his or her true purpose.   Inexperienced players often succumb to these obstacles despite care being taken between rounds to prepare them.   The obstacles are culture and fear.

OBSTACLES

Cultural obstacles to understanding are often hard to overcome because they are taught to players in childhood and become a source of identity

Culture refers to the set of meanings dominant in a round of play.   (Note: here meaning simply refers to a shared understanding about a concept or idea – in quantum life languages words confusingly have multiple meanings!)   Each player is “born into” a cultural world with customs, traditions and shared understandings that they are socialized to accept.  These “cultures” vary vastly over time and place, and reflect the choices made by players.   As such, culture is a product of the game which often has little connection with true reality.

One challenge for players is to become critical of how culture might prevent them from achieving their life purpose.  Cultures can define groups of players as inferior, certain practices as morally right or wrong, and certain goals as acceptable and unacceptable.    In some cases a player’s purpose requires opposition to the existing culture.   That is a challenge often embraced by advanced players.

Identity connected with a group deemed superior can be dangerous

It’s hard to overstate the ease in which players can lose sight of their purpose and fall into the trap of being hypnotized by the culture world in which they find themselves.   They may realize that “something is wrong” inside, or that their life is unfulfilling and lacks meaning, but their response can be to more tightly embrace the culture, hoping that conformity to the norms of the game will bring satisfaction.    While numerous lessons and experiences can still be gleaned from such rounds of play, the true purpose of that round becomes hidden and the round is ultimately unsuccessful.

Another obstacle, one that often is connected to culture, is fear.   As noted earliler in this guidebook, the core cause of fear is uncertainty.   Players enter this world from a world where the connection of all with all is understood and embraced.   Pure certainty of meaning is a key aspect of existence in the real world (again, these concepts are hard to convey in a quantum life language).   In the game there is a sense of being alone and uncertain.

As an obstacle to be overcome, fear is first dealt with by living as an instinctive creature (an animal) or a human player in physical danger.   Fear becomes a response to threats to survival in the world, and as such players learn to see it as a positive force, giving them strength and awareness when necessary.   However, it takes practice to take that lesson and use it when fear is a response to uncertainty in the game, especially when a player doubts his or her own worth and meaning.

Players often band together in response to threats or fear, creating a dangerous dynamic that can spiral downward into bigotry and anger

Rather than using fear as a source of strength players might submit more fully to the culture in which they find themselves.   Cultural beliefs often seem to comfort uncertainty by positing a person as superior to other players (e.g., a superior gender, race, ethnic group or class).    This can create an illusion of security but the disconnect between the player and his or her purpose generates deep discontent and dissatisfaction.

The result is a destructive downward spiral as players try ever harder to prove their own worth and value in the game-world, and increasingly find it unfulfilling as it is ever farther from their true purpose.   Such actions can reinforce cultural norms that create obstacles for other players.    This makes for some of the most difficult life lessons and experiences – a player may believe he or she is totally prepared for a meaningful round of play and then emerge having “wasted” a life on material pursuits or efforts to gain power over others.

Players often seek comfort in conformity, but that often masks a disconnect with both purpose and meaning.

These obstacles, however, are essential to the game.  Overcoming fear and culture requires self-mastery.   A player must be confident enough to reject conformity as  a moral good, with no need to prove self-worth through comparison to or dominance over others.    That is why the game is so popular — players learn to develop the certainty inherent in real world existence even without the ubiquitous real world connections.   It is, however, a much more difficult task than most people realize.

(All for today – I’ll continue to transcribe this guidebook in future blog posts!)

Leave a comment

Quantum Life: Childhood

A Childhood Idyll, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1900

(Note, this is part 7 of a series called “Quantum Life,” in which I post the contents of a strange ‘guide book’ I found for a game called “Quantum Life.”  It is in English, which the book calls a “Quantum Life language,” unable to capture all thecomplexities of the world as it really is.  I’m not sure where this book came from).  If this reads very strange to those following my blog, click the link above and look at the basic premise of this series and earlier entries.  Picking up where I left off, the next section is “Childhood”:

CHILDHOOD

In a nutshell, the goal of childhood in the game Quantum Life is to create an identity in this round of play (lifetime) that reflects the player’s personality and experience, and engages the chosen environment (era, culture, etc.) effectively.   A successful childhood yields a player who, while not understanding he or she is in a game, recognizes that through choice he or she is fundamentally in control of the life experience.   Moreover a successful childhood yields a player who intuitively understands and can use the myriad of connections and shared experiences to learn and grow.

Childhood is the most pure experience of the game, with stronger connections to past experiences than any other time.    This makes it an exuberant part of life, or one in which great resiliency and surprising strength can be shown.  Nonetheless many players spend multiple “lives” simply trying to get through childhood successfully before attempting adulthood.   Others choose obstacles in particular lives (illness, injury, a different perspective on reality often seen as mental illness within the game) to work on particular challenges.    Relatively new players to the game often choose to leave at or near the end of childhood.    By age 17 almost all “psychic” connections are fully subconscious and operate invisibly.

The passage from reality to the quantum life game can be difficult and traumatic

CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES

As with any “life,” different experiences are chosen for diverse reasons.  Almost always the parent-child dynamic is important.   At the age of 3 or 4 the child first leaves the protection of  extremely close contact with and understanding of true reality.   Sometimes this corresponds to a point of trauma.    Many people want to experience a particular kind of lesson in life, and trauma at that point can be life shaping – it sets up a more rigid set of probabilities, conditions a player is less likely to veer away from.   Those who experience trauma of some sort at an early age will find that experience (losing a parent or sibling, having a life changing injury, etc.) a part of their entire life and identity.  Traumas throughout childhood play a similar role; their influence is strongest at age 3 or 4 when the child emerges from its deeper connection with true reality.

Even without major trauma, a key role of childhood is identity construction.  Since each game or “life” requires the player to don a new personality, childhood is when the ground work for doing this happens:

1.  Relation to others.   Early on children are completely dependent on others for material survival.   Between birth and age 5 the relationship to the parents determines the ease players will have in trusting and opening themselves to others.  Players have considerable control over this, as these ages are the easiest to plan with the game counselor.  For various reasons some players might want to overcome the challenge of having a lack of trust for others, or perhaps help their parents learn lessons about the consequences of their actions.

For example, two players between games may decide that one has a real problem with patience and empathy.   Another player may choose to enter the game as a child with a major handicap in order to try to force the problem player to work on those traits.

2.  Confidence.  Confidence in life is an important goal of the game, but it has to be learned.   Early in childhood this involves asserting ones’ will, defying authority, and even “temper tantrums.”   This can be countered by ideas of shame and outside control by parents or an existing culture.    Depending on goals and challenges to be faced, players may want to have low confidence as an obstacle to be overcome.   Other times poor choices by parents limit the confidence and increase the shame in a player.     Many players play multiple rounds (lives) primarily to practice developing or fostering confidence in the roles of parent or child.

3.  Action.   After age 11 players also learn how to take action in the world and achieve results.  Toys and games are particularly important, as are relationships with others.    Players model out actions and possibilities, preparing themselves for the choices adulthood will require.   This is integrated with the goal of confidence building:   low confidence action can inspire guilt, high confidence connects action with initiative.

4.  Understanding.   Throughout childhood players are acquiring knowledge about their new environment at a tremendous pace and learning how the world — the quantum life game reality — works.    Learning in the game is a communal endeavor, not something the player achieves completely on his or her own.    This understanding of the world takes place on many levels — causal understanding of how things happen in a “material” world, as well as determining what kinds of things have value for the players.

5.  Taking Control.   As players near adulthood the primary goal is to take control of ones’ life and take responsibility for the choices made and their consequences.    Players should be comfortable with the identity they have constructed for themselves at this point.    For many players, especially new ones, this is a daunting task which must be attempted multiple times before success.   Even seasoned players may fail, making adulthood very difficult.

The two goals of childhood seem straight forward: a) accept and be happy with the identity they have constructed, and b) to take control and accept responsibility for ones’ life choices and path.    Yet numerous obstacles stand in the way, despite the closer connections with reality.   This is a necessary consequence of  “forgetting” past rounds of the game.   Moreover, for all the difficulties and opportunities that “adult” players endure, childhood remains the most important and difficult (if also joyful) stages of the game.

Finally, the tasks listed above accumulate over rounds of play.   A player who has mastered the notion of control and identity acceptance will have an easier time doing so in future rounds.   These differences appear in the quantum life game as differences in personality or temperament.   Extremely advanced players often choose to experience childhood in difficult ways in order to help less advanced players who may be their parents or otherwise connected with their life.

(OK, enough transcribing for today!   I’ll post more from this intriguing ‘handbook’ latter on!)

2 Comments

The Time of Transition

A piece of the fabric of space-time fractured in my office today and a description of a course to be offered in 2279 slipped through. Weird, that.

It is the year 2279.     Here Professor Hubert Morgan talks about the popular history course on the era of transition from 1985 to 2065 when somehow the global system survived a series of crises without collapsing.   Instead, the basis for the peaceful global union we have today was forged.

We look back at the era as one of instability, riots and fear that we luckily managed to survive – students in this course learn to understand the era through the eyes of those who actually lived through it!

People come to the course with a variety of expectations.   They know that this was the era of globalization, economic crisis, the collapse of the sovereign state as a system of governance, intense global warming, energy crises and famine, but they also know that the story had a happy ending.   Not only did they solve their problems through a mix of technological ingenuity, political creativity and adaptation, but they forged an ongoing era of peace, known as the Global Union.

In my course I try to as much as possible get them to experience that era the way the people living through it did — not knowing for sure what was happening, finding it hard to let go of old concepts and ideals, and fearful of the future.

Students get hands on experience with old technology such as this mid-1980s version of a “personal computer.” Now seen as ancient and archaic, these machines were the gateway into the information revolution that changed the world.

We start at 1985 – the year when both globalization and the information revolution started to take off.    We spend time there, learning about the culture, the state of the world, the films (students especially enjoy one called “Back to the Future”), the games, and the music.

Students laugh when they see the 1985 game “tetris,” which looks much like the exercises two year olds engage in to develop spatial cognition. “It’s surprisingly addictive,” one student grudgingly noted.

People choose various media experiences – that was the age of motion pictures, television, and the emergence of music on compact discs – large cumbersome devices that nonetheless opened the door to the era of digital music.  The idea is to immerse themselves in this strange but fascinating past before heading onto the roller coaster of the next eighty years.

Students take awhile to understand ideology.   Ideology is now seen as a kind of mental prison forcing people into stagnant modes of thought, but politics was ideological in those days.   Students need to understand the bizarre “Cold War” and why it was so difficult for people to think outside narrow political or national boundaries.  It’s not that people were stupid or bigoted, they simply saw that world of ideology, ethnicity and states as natural.

We also explore why warnings on the growing economic imbalances, the loss of oil as a major energy source, and global warming were ignored and even denied.   One student described it as “cultural group think.”

I think the part that often most startles them is the “trips” to virtual farms to see how animals were treated and food produced.   Even though they know it’s not real, when talking to the farmers the odors, inhumane treatment of the animals and the way in which chemicals and other additives are simply dumped into the food chain sometimes makes some students physically ill.   Of all the things that make life 300 years ago so wretched, most say food production is the biggest reason they wouldn’t want to go back!

Nothing prepares students for the virtual tours of chicken farms, and immersion into the food and chemical culture of the era. “How could they eat what was treated so barbarically?” students ask. The answer – most people never gave a second thought to where their food came from, or how it was manufactured.

Of course, the worst part of that era — 2015 to 2045 — can’t help but grab attention.  Looked at as a thirty year “era” it’s easy to understand it and figure out why things worked out the way they did.   In our course we try to accentuate the uncertainty people living through that era experienced – they truly feared global instability, mass warfare, disease and even human survival.

As global warming rendered huge sections of the planet virtually uninhabitable due to drought and disease, many thought that humans would fall back into savagery and chaos.

We follow the side stories of the scientists, politicians, thinkers and cultural icons that strove to keep civilization together and built ties between the impoverished suffering states of Africa and parts of Asia with the technologically advanced people in Europe and North America.    Students recognize how fragile these connections were, especially early on, and how easily they might have been destroyed by fearful nationalism and bigotry.    The wisdom that global cooperation was necessary was a hard sell only on!

In 1901 the first “gusher” at Mt. Spindletop in Texas helped usher in the age of oil – cheap, transportable and extremely efficient energy. A whole society was built on cheap energy, and when oil became scarce by the 2020s people feared collapse.

The final era is that of consolidation, from 2045 to 2065 when the Treaty of Global Union was signed and most of the severe problems of the 21st Century were solved.     This includes the new economics in which the ideologies of capitalism and socialism were jettisoned for a pragmatic approach that combined ideas from all, but focused on human liberty and opportunity as the core values.    Massive debt was wiped out as all old currencies were simply abolished and the world started a new with a global currency and blank slate.   In retrospect all that seems to have been inevitable, but students learn how gut wrenching and scary it was while the issues were debated.

In the course we trace how the information revolution led to the capacity to massively decentralize government and bring it closer to the people, making possible a “Global Union” of core shared rules but little centralized power.   They realize how odd such an arrangement would look to an early 21st Century human so used to seeing centralization and de-centralization as mutually incompatible.

The new science of energy, food and climate is perhaps the most intriguing.  We all learn it as natural, and look back at the materialism, consumerism, pollution and poisonous chemicals as a barbaric aspect of the old era.   In this class students learn how that was taken as natural, and how dramatic the change in thinking was — so dramatic that absent global catastrophe it might never have happened.

The virtual trips to the era are life like.  It is as if we have traveled back in time, our ability to use holography to create worlds that appear completely real to our senses makes this possible.

The past comes alive for students with hyper-programmed holographic technology — something imagined (albeit in very crude form) back in 1987 on a show known as Star Trek.

This course reminds us of crises caused by the era of greed, corruption, materialism, lack of respect for the environment and pursuit of pure self-interest without regard for the common good.   By learning about the past we can better understand our present, appreciate what we’ve accomplished, and remind ourselves that humans do best when we understand we share a common destiny, both with each other and with our planet.

5 Comments

Odds and Ends

While I can blame the busy end of the semester for my lack of blog posts recently, two projects have taken most of the time not consumed by grading and helping students.

1.  The Italy trip.   On May 16th I will leave with 42 students and three other faculty members for Italy for a travel course to Venice, Florence and Rome.   I am the person who deals with most logistics and finances, and that’s been keeping me busy.   I budgeted the trip when a Euro cost $1.30.   I realized at that time that the dollar was artificially strong against the Euro so I did most of my planning around a scenario where the dollar dropped to $1.45.

That wasn’t an arbitrary figure.  I looked at the past and found that it is very rare to go down more than 15 cents in four months.   Alas, the dollar is now nearing $1.50 per Euro, and the trip threatens to go over budget.   This means that we won’t be able to purchase day trip tickets for students (if they choose a day trip they have to pay themselves) or admission into museums.   All of that was budgeted into the trip.   One reason this bites is that the air fare went up $100 over the original price quoted due to oil price increases.   At that point the dollar was still doing well so I decided not to pass that cost on to the students, betting the dollar wouldn’t decline much in the next two months (this happened in March).   That turned out to be a mistake.

More on the Italy trip as it nears.  I will try to blog from Italy, especially about food this time!

2.  A new writing project.   While I am still working on a research project, I have also started to write a book.   The goal: make political economy interesting and accessible to average readers.

One frustrating thing about conversations about the budget, taxation or economics in general is that very few people know much about how the political economy operates.   That causes people to easily fall for slogans and simplistic claims.   People believe things like ‘more taxation means less freedom’ or claims that it would be good not to raise the debt ceiling.   More fundamentally, people don’t understand what is happening to the US and how the world economy is changing — changing in ways that are likely to dislodge the US from its perch atop the world economy and continue to imperil the shrinking middle class.

A lot of people got used to the idea, popular before 2008, that the US was economically superior to Europe because we had a higher per capita GDP, less regulation and less taxation.   Now as the European countries recover and appear prepared for the challenges ahead, the US looks more wobbly than ever.   It turns out that the ‘conventional wisdom’ that we were better off was based on a bubble economy and simplistic thinking.   Yet most people haven’t grasped the seriousness of the situation, or the fact that our economy remains unsustainable unless we change course.

At this point, we can easily turn this around.    We are not yet in true crisis.    The only way that this will engulf us is if we got caught in political stagnation, adopt wrong headed policies, or do something idiotic like refusing to raise the debt ceiling.  Neither the left nor the right are providing a coherent strategy to readjust.   The right focuses its ire on the budget deficit.   The debt is a problem, but not a crisis at this point.   Moreover, until the economy starts growing it would be dangerous to cut the budget too much — when the economy starts growing not only will cuts be easier, but expenditures will fall and revenue will rise naturally.  The left focuses on protecting the status quo, but that overlooks the need to react to the changes in the nature of the world economy forced upon us by globalization.

My book will be a mix of fiction and serious political economy, designed to be entertaining enough to appeal to average readers, but informative enough to actually educate.   I also hope to introduce my own solution.   I’ve been writing this pretty consistently in my ‘down time’ from work, but that’s stolen time from my blog.    I have no illusion that I’ll actually write a best seller, but I know I definitely won’t if I don’t write anything!   For now, I’m having fun with it.  If I don’t get it published, I’ll probably roll it out in blog entries (on days I don’t write a new blog I’d give another piece of that book).   For now, though, I’m just getting started.

No details on that yet, but it mixes history, philosophy, economics and politics,  and has a quasi-spiritual angle as well.   And I do have a few blog posts in mind for the coming days!

Leave a comment