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Month: January 2024

On Gratitude

On Gratitude

Gratitude is difficult for people to express, because it requires admitting dependence on others. In that way it feels like surrendering autonomy, which everyone is loathe to do. Ultimately, all conflict in human life is about power and autonomy, and the resistance to expressing gratitude is like a fortress people erect to defend their self-perception in that power struggle. In their egoic desire for power and autonomy, people convince themselves of their self-reliance and self-determination, and cannot face the truth that in our complex society we are all interdependent.

The use of money and market transactions to facilitate meeting basic survival needs helps to sustain these self-delusions. After all, so long as one has the mettle to maintain a money income through some skill or trade, one can exchange one’s money for needed goods and services. Therefore, one can believe that one is reliant only on oneself. The illusion of freedom is maintained.

But these market exchanges don’t change the fact that to eat, we depend on others to grow our food. To thrive, we depend on others to maintain basic infrastructure, roads and bridges and the utilities that deliver our power and water. We depend on others to extract and refine the minerals and metals and fossil fuels which form the material foundation of our civilization.

Our use of money to acquire these things via free market capitalism disguises these dependencies but does not eliminate them. And we depend on the authority of our government, which ultimately rests on the power of its military and police, to even make those markets work and that money useable as a currency of exchange. We are utterly dependent on other human beings, but we cannot acknowledge this or display even the simplest gratitude for what they do.

Even in our personal lives we are dependent on others. We are dependent on our friends and family for emotional support and for logistical support. We depend on their willingness to share their time with us. But then we get used to relying on them. We start to take them for granted, assuming they will always be there for us, and forget to show our gratitude.

We resist showing gratitude for what others do for us, whether people close to us or the myriad strangers who make our lifestyles possible, because that would be admitting our dependence. Our egos would rather believe in their own sovereignty, that we are in charge and others are fufilling obligations to us. Expressing gratitude, for the ego, is like abdicating a throne. But that throne is a mirage – we are really held up by what others do for us. Other people who deserve our gratitude.

Heed the wisdom of the Buddha Bear.

I plan more of these Buddha Bear posts in the future. This was a format I was originally planning to post on another siteTM which sadly has not heeded the Buddha Bear and has lost its way.

A Couple of Interesting 20th Century History Podcasts

A Couple of Interesting 20th Century History Podcasts

I like having a podcast running in the background while I work. I work from home, alone in an office, and having a podcast going is like having some folks there in the room with me, discussing whatever. My favorite topics are culture and history, though sometimes I go for science or spirituality. I like something low-key, fairly non-intrusive, which podcasts tend to be in my experience, or at least the ones I listen to are. I might not fully absorb the content, as my focus is divided by work, but that’s OK. It’s just nice to have someone talking in the background.

The term “podcast” came about in the early 2000s, taking its name from the “iPod,” a common way to access digital content back then. All it means is some kind of digital streaming audio content, in episodic format. Episode lengths can range anywhere from about 15 minutes to over two hours. I listen to podcasts over the web on my laptop, or on my smartphone. I tend to be behind on the content; meaning I’m often listening to episodes made years ago, rather than recently produced ones. I’m always way behind on pop culture consumption. I mean, I only just recently watched the 50th anniversary Dr. Who special, and they’ve already made the 60th anniversary one.

In this post I wanted to call out a couple of podcasts I’ve enjoyed recently, both of which cover the history of the mid-twentieth century.

The first one is The Long Seventies Podcast, which covers, well, the 1970s. It uses the term “long seventies” to mean the period from about 1968-1983, which is understood as one cultural era. This is basically the Consciousness Revolution Second Turning as defined in Strauss & Howe generational theory. The hosts, Matt and Alex, are these two guys who I’m guessing are core Gen Xers like me, based on their attitudes and how their own life experiences come up in their discussions.

The podcast episodes are long – about 2 hours each – and cover politics, media and popular culture (so far that I’ve heard). Sometimes they talk about events, sometimes trends, sometimes specific cultural artifacts like movies or music albums. The two hosts are mild-mannered, kind of soft-spoken and a bit rambly. It makes for easy background listening. They are skeptical, vaguely reactionary, and often insightful, with heads full of pop culture trivia. Very Gen X.

I have only listened to episodes from a few years back, so have no idea what they think of recent events, not that they would necessarily discuss current events, since the podcast is about the 1970s. Anyway, if you are interested in that decade and find the style I have described appealing, you should check them out.

The second podcast is titled From Boomers to Millennials. This is an ambitious project by a Millennial named Logan Roberts, covering modern U.S. history. The goal is to have an episode for every year from 1946 (the first Boomer birth year according to the U.S. Census) to the present – that is, to go from the dawn of the Boomer era to some point in the current Millennial era.

The episodes are usually about 45 minutes long, and mostly cover politics and major historical events. But because 45 minutes is not really enough time to go over a whole year, the “episodes” end up getting broken up into multiple parts anyway. Plus there are “supplemental” episodes, often in the form of minibiographies of important people from the time period. At the time of this writing, the podcaster has reached the year 1961.

Though this podcast is slow going, I don’t mind, because Roberts is a great narrator. He is well spoken and very knowledgeable. As a Millennial, he seems to have absorbed a historical narrative that some might consider to be “woke” or “liberal,” but I don’t mind that either. I think he’s on the right side of history, and I hope he gets through the Millennial Saeculum, which should end in the early 2030s. By the time this podcast reaches the 2030s (remember, it’s at 1961), I might well be dead. But history, of course, will be marching on.