Sands of time

Resultado de imagem para Photo by Chris Jordan from the series Midway: Message from the Gyre

Photo by Chris Jordan from the series Midway: Message from the Gyre

The North Sea is rich in signs of what made the modern world. It’s also a monument to what awaits us in the Anthropocene

by David Farrier is a senior lecturer in English literature at the University of Edinburgh, where his research interests include eco-criticism, postcolonial studies, and asylum and refugee contexts. He is currently working on a book about deep time in contemporary poetry. 

The red-veined rocks of Bohuslän in western Sweden have one of the highest concentrations of Bronze Age art in Europe. I was lucky enough to see the carvings during a recent October visit. The site was set back from a road, which marked where the shoreline of the North Sea would have been when the figures were first inscribed, between 2,500 and 4,000 years ago. The petroglyphs had since been painted pillar-box red so that they’d stand out for tourists, and the bright colours and wobbly lines looked like an enormous child’s drawing. But what the scene lacked in elegance it made up for in energy. Bowmen stalked antlered stags among a fleet of longships, flowing into a procession of bulls and thick-bodied giants teetering precariously atop spindly legs. Land and sea, human and animal, swam in and out of view.

Bronze Age rock art in Bohuslän, Sweden, assumed to depict the performance of a ritual. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

I found myself trying to create a narrative, some sort of lost epic, as if I were deciphering a Bronze Age cartoon. We don’t know why these inscriptions were made, or what they were meant to say. The blunt-limbed figures give no clue about where such a story might begin, or where it might end. But perhaps that tangled quality is the petroglyphs’ real message. The longships speak of a culture closely aligned with the sea; the many animals point to a strong affinity with nature. Similar sites on the Cornish and Iberian peninsulas indicate that cultural influences travelled along what the Beowulf poet would later call the ‘whale roads’, the open waters that connected Bronze Age Scandinavia to the rest of Europe for the purposes of war and trade.

We live in a similarly entangled age, in which our consumption of fossil fuels, nitrogen fertilisers, the cobalt in our smartphones, antibiotics, and plastic all bind us to faraway times and places. The world of the Anthropocene is made from this dense web of relationships, each of which leaves its imprint on the world of the future. Two hundred generations of humans have lived and died since the Bohuslän petroglyphs were chipped out of the granite, but they remain urgent and vivid, the evidence of a living presence. In their silence, they pose certain questions. How and why do we navigate the currents of time and of matter to communicate with the deep future? Is it our intentional signs and symbols that leave the most lasting marks, or our unintentional traces?

Ilive and work in Edinburgh, on the lip of the North Sea. I’ve come to see these waters as a kind of Anthropocene laboratory, somewhere that lets us peer at the long-term impacts of the way we’re living now. Its past can tell us something of our future. As the Pangea supercontinent was breaking up 200 million years ago, ancient bacteria and microscopic plants were trapped in what would become the sea floor. Sediments gradually covered them over, and the immense pressure and heat from moving tectonic plates slowly converted this organic matter into the fossil fuels for which the region is now famous.

Until the end of the last Ice Age a vast plain linked Britain to continental Europe; evidence of human presence has been discovered in the form of stone hand axes, dredged up from the sea floor in the south. Then, around 11,700 years ago, the glaciers that once smothered the British Isles in sheets of ice up to 2km thick began to melt, and the North Sea slowly emerged in its present shape – a shallow basin, edged by a deep trench where the sea meets the crenellated coast of Norway…

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https://aeon.co/essays/the-north-sea-is-a-sign-of-what-awaits-in-the-anthropocene

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WHY LIVING WITH LESS CAN ACTUALLY MAKE YOU HAPPIER

by Phillip Schneider, Staff Writer, Waking Times

Will having more wealth actually make you happier? According to a number of studies an addition to your income isn’t only unlikely to make you happier, but it can make those around you less happy, and you for the fear of losing it.

To explain, we must first look at a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Two economists, David Blanchflower of Dartmouth and Andrew Oswald of Warwick, set out to document the relation that age has to overall happiness. What they found was that as income tends to increase steadily over time, happiness follows a U-shape pattern, dipping to its lowest point at around age 45, then quickly climbing up thereafter.

A large-scale survey from the General Social Survey, which included around 20,000 men and 25,000 women of 16 years and older supports these findings. After asking Americans to rank their happiness on a 3 point scale ranging from “very happy” to “pretty happy” to “not too happy”, they found a resulting average of 2.2, or just over “pretty happy”. The Eurobaromoter, after conducting a similar survey on close to 400,000 men and women in 11 European countries from 1975 to 1998 found that the average self-assessed happiness score across Europe is 3 out of 4.

After further investigation, Oswald and Blanchflower found that the age of any given person in the developing world is more powerful in determining overall happiness than a halving or doubling of income. Also, they found that people of every gender and income have become enormously less happy throughout the past century. The difference in levels of happiness between those born in the 1960’s vs the 1920’s is the same effect as a tenfold difference in income, despite the fact that the younger generation is far more prosperous.

“I thought, if I could make 10 million dollars then it must be too easy. In fact, I honestly thought, everyone else had probably already made 11 million dollars. So then I felt poor again. I now needed 100 million dollars to be happy.” ~James Altucher

What could explain this sharp decrease in happiness over time? Well, one of the largest societal changes that occurred throughout the 20th century was the onset of a mass consumerist culture. Before the roaring 1920’s, life was much simpler and people didn’t have strong desires for material things beyond the basics to live a fulfilling life like we do today.

On a scientific level, the ultimate reward for the purchase of a new watch, car, or other status symbol is a short-term release in dopamine which triggers a brief period of personal satisfaction. This is why we feel good after buying new things and it’s where the term “retail therapy” comes from. However, the happiness one gets from material worth is short-lived. After time, the buyer will revert back to their original demeanor, while obtaining a sense of comfort and security from those new things they bought.

From this perspective, it begins to make sense why prosperous people in the developing world are some of the most prone to depression; they become afraid of losing what they have which their peers don’t. In fact, those on the opposite end are shown to have the reverse effect and often become more depressed when around those with greater wealth. Contrary to popular belief that areas of high poverty produce higher homicide rates, it is actually those with the highest income disparity.

“Riches leave a man always as much and sometimes more exposed than before to anxiety, to fear and to sorrow.” ~Adam Smith

About the Author

Phillip Schneider is a student and a staff writer for Waking Times.

This article (Why Living With Less Can Actually Make You Happier) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Phillip Schneider and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.

http://www.wakingtimes.com/2017/05/16/living-less-can-actually-make-happier/

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Love in a Homeless Place

Jeremy Lybarger

Intimate relationships are uniquely fraught for those with nowhere to call home

By the time I stumble upon the alley, the man who sets himself on fire has passed out, and the woman who roves around naked shouting obscenities is fully dressed and interrogating pigeons convened in the motel parking lot. Across the street, Keisha and Marcus huddle against a chain-link fence and pass a plastic bottle of Royal Gate vodka, 80-proof, back and forth. A shopping cart from Target is parked within arm’s reach, piled with everything they own: tents, clothes, plastic bags busy with snack cakes, a grimy stuffed animal — taxonomy unknown — nicknamed Attitude.

Keisha and Marcus have been together for 18 years. They met outside of a San Francisco sex club called the Power Exchange, one of the few haunts in town where a transgender prostitute like Keisha could reliably pick up johns like Marcus. She considered him “just another trick” until he spread a beach towel on the pavement so they could fuck without skinning their elbows — an act of chivalry that made Keisha swoon.

“You’re going to my wife one day,” Marcus told her then. “I have too much respect for you.”

Keisha chokes up when she tells this story now. It’s obvious they’re in love, although it’s also obvious it’s the kind of love that leaves scars as proof of its intensity. Marcus used to throw Keisha’s wigs into trash cans downtown; Keisha would fish them out and comb them clean; they’d laugh about it later. They have that kind of bond. Marcus, 59, claims he’s been locked up in every prison in California, with a rap sheet spanning four decades. Keisha, 41, alludes to her various illnesses, among which only HIV is named with precision. She hikes up her pant leg to brandish a black, wisteria-like rash branching up her calf.

They’ve lived on the street almost continuously for two years. Sometimes they rent a cheap hotel room when Keisha’s SSI check comes on the first of each month. Otherwise, they shuttle between a tent they pitch on church grounds less than a half-mile away and this sun-faded alley in the Tenderloin, one of San Francisco’s poorest neighborhoods. Most afternoons they split a bottle of cheap liquor, smoke weed, and read paperbacks scavenged from the street. Today they’re thumbing through a travel guide to Paris.

“Basically, we need each other,” Keisha says.

The alley — hedged by motor lodges, an auto body shop, and low-rise apartment buildings — isn’t ideal for a couple seeking intimacy. Regular disturbances include the aforementioned naked woman and the freelance pyromaniac. But, then, few public spaces offer refuge for the homeless, especially homeless couples whose desire for romance too often collides with interruptions from passersby, spotty hygiene, or citations for indecent exposure.

Still, Keisha and Marcus manage.

“We do the hoochie coochie,” she says, swigging vodka. “We don’t go to the bathroom stalls and do it. We ain’t nasty.”

Instead, they rely on the fragile privacy of their tent, tucked away in an adjacent neighborhood that sees less foot traffic than the Tenderloin. They have sex a few times a month — more often if Keisha feels Marcus growing restless. They’ve been together long enough that she has an almost telepathic sense of her husband’s moods.

“If he’s looking somewhere else I’ll give it to him,” she says. “In fact, I might give him some tonight.”

Sex among the homeless is rarely discussed. I contact nearly a dozen shelters and advocacy groups before I find anyone willing to talk about it. Katie Hill, deputy CEO of an L.A.-based organization called People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), is one of the first to answer my inquiries…

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https://melmagazine.com/love-in-a-homeless-place-68e7c64f4306

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