Ultimate Fighting, Round 1

Imagine entering a huge arena.  A spot of intense light reveals a boxing ring in the distance, spotlights lining the edges of the arena, all seats filled.  The audience?  Every life form that exists, and ever has existed.  Elephants sitting next to amoebas, an octopus next to the hummingbird, and even the lowly virus has shown up to see the event sitting in special quarantine box seats.

The referee grabs the microphone.  “In this corner, we have the young upstart – Heeu-man-itee!”  A small cheer goes up, mostly from the primates.

“In the opposing corning, we have the reigning cham-peen, vanquisher of all things, the bringer of life, and incarnation of death itself, Muth-Er Nay-chur!”  A huge roar as almost every living thing vibrates the air in some way.

“All right you two.  I want a clean fight, no cheating!”  DING!

The fight is on in the form of today’s rancorous political debates about climate change, and an undercurrent of bravado exists in all camps.  The deniers claim that the scientists have their signals wrong, or that everything they are seeing is simply a “new normal.”  The doomsayers are equally intent in their own convictions, as well as confident as to their suggestions for addressing the problem.

The details of either side aren’t important for now.  What we’re going to focus on is the single confrontation between humans and Mother Nature.  Let’s call her Mom for short.

People feel powerful.  We have conquered fire, we build houses that touch the sky.  We build large lakes where none existed in order to generate power and feed a billion people.  We fly through the air even though we haven’t any wings.  We swim deep under the water, even though we have no gills.  We have seen the atom, and the edge of the observable universe.  No wonder we feel powerful.

On the other hand, what has Mom done lately?  She’s pretty tame, for the most part.  In fact, 999 times out of a thousand, Mom is nothing but peace and quiet.  Waves gently lapping at the shore, gentle breezes rustling the leaves, puffy clouds.

Don’t be fooled.  Mom can jostle a tectonic plate and bring down entire cities.  She can burp a volcano and cancel summer.  She can twist a hurricane out of thin air and wash away a coastline.  And she can parch an entire continent for decades without even trying.

Here’s where bravado meets reality.  Mom is all powerful.  She represents forces many times greater than we can even dream of harnessing.  What little we have accomplished was done with her passive acquiescence.  Should she ever object, there is nothing we can do that can stop her.

This is an important reality check for all true students, whether of behavior or civil engineering or anything else.  We succeed only as much as Mom allows.  We must show her respect, and pray for mercy.

Now, back to our boxing ring.  I hope we didn’t miss anything.

DING!   “And the weenner is …!”

 

How much is YOUR holiday worth?

Do you have a day of rest and religious observance?  How about an important holiday?  No, Valentines and Halloween don’t count.  I’m referring to the big old holidays, like Easter, Christmas, Yom Kippur, Ramadan, things like that.  The stuff that is observed by billions of people.  Holidays that were around BEFORE there was a greeting card industry.  Wait a minute, WAS there a BEFORE time for greeting cards?

Anyway, your holiday.  Your day of rest.  How much is it worth to you?  How much to give it up?  Would you take credit?

We all have a price for everything.  Some of us hold ideals that we’re willing to give our lives for.  But even our lives have a price tag associated with them.  And if you’re willing to average out these values across society, it becomes even easier to figure out.  Let’s take Easter and Pesach (Passover), since we just observed them a few weeks ago.

We know families get together, but how far are they willing to travel?  On average, if a family member is too far away they won’t come to dinner.  If they are close, they come.  That distance costs something to travel, and that’s part of the value.

Some people have jobs that don’t let them follow a normal schedule.  So they have to forgo the pleasure of family and observance in order to keep their job, serve the company and society, and ultimately secure the future of their own family.  The extra amount they get paid is part of that value.

People spend time getting ready for the holiday.  They fix up their homes.  They buy the nice and traditional foods.  They may spend extra time getting clean and making themselves beautiful.  They probably also take extra pains to make sure they don’t say anything nasty to Aunt Sadie who was so terribly insulting last time she was over that …

Excuse me, I’m getting carried away.  At any rate, there is a cost to all that work.  All that pain.  If we were aliens paying a visit to our backward Earth cousins, we could infer the value of the holiday by all these things.  We could make it easy and choose only one thing, like spending money.  But in that case something like Christmas would be the all out winner.  What if eating candy was the one measure?  In which case Halloween would come in first, with Valentine’s day a close second.

So, here’s to your holidays – past and future.  I certainly hope they’re worth it!