An elderly individual’s perspective of his life and times. Integrating under the curve of a life as it approaches its asymptote

“Situational awareness” is a current concept of wide applicability - it’s “a thing”. It favors survival where one’s life is at stake, say in military matters or piloting aircraft. Otherwise, it may be simply of personal interest by way of examining one’s life at any level of context. Perhaps the game of chess makes the concept more manageable. A skilled player knows everything present and possible within the four corners of the board; the history of the progression of moves from the standard beginning, to all the possible moves which may come in the future. In chess, then, the master is situationally aware in a most comprehensive manner. The question arises whether this chess analogy scales up to one’s life at large?

Given the number of variables in both the world and an individual life, the answer is “No” (An aside: A few hours after writing thusly about chess, while re-reading “The Making of the Atomic Bomb”, I read therein a quote from Richard Feynman no less, making exactly the same analogy”! And, he adds, merely learning the rules of the game - the physical laws of the universe - does’t mean we can play; we just get to watch, he says). It is nonetheless instructive as a matter of approach, so it doesn’t mean that most of us don’t make at least intermittent efforts to make some sense of our lives in the context of our place in the world/universe in which we find ourselves with ever-improving knowledge. Science has brought within our ken an astounding number of phenomena and events of which our ancestors could scarcely guess. A curious, introspective individual in our times, then, has much to understand and correlate - should (s)he choose - to discover even a modicum of such situational awareness.

My present compulsive introspection comes In the wake of a miIld case of Covid, which has left me experiencing severe dyspnea and tachycardia with the mildest exertion. The Covid came on the heels of a month long bout of asthmatic bronchitis (probably RSV). I didn’t realize how serious this was until I climbed the stairs in my house quickly (I have habitually bounded up steps) the other day, to get something. Upon arrival in the bedroom I was so short of breath I thought I was dying. In my terror, I had trouble plugging in the oxygen concentrator kept next to my bed for just such emergencies. I got it plugged in and turned on and improved in about one minute of breathing oxygen. My oxygen sat at the outset was 93 (oximeter also kept handy - usually 97) and heart rate 125 (usually 70). Now, I do have coronary artery disease and had a stent in 2015. Before the stent, rather than presenting with angina, however, my coronary ischemia presented with dyspnea on exertion; this is referred to as an “angina equivalent”, where the inadequate blood supply to the myocardium results in an inability to pump sufficient blood per unit time - called “acute heart failure”. This, in turn, results in a back pressure in the pulmonary vasculature resulting in severe shortness of breath. If not promptly relieved, pulmonary edema and death can occur. Realizing my heart rate was so high, I put 10mg propranolol under my tongue to slow it along with some nitroglycerin. Within 5 minutes, my heart rate fell into the 90’s and I began to feel normal. All of which is by way of introducing the especially acute desire to improve situational awareness of my entire life.

Those who know me know I hardly need such reminders of my mortality; they know I spend some time most days thinking back on past events and trying to understand their meaning and context. This ongoing effort has been inadvertently augmented in the past few years by what seems to be a new mechanism of memory retrieval. I don’t know if these frequent memory events are due to old age (and associated storage overflow from accumulation of too many memories - some sort of “memory incontinence”- or maybe some brain pathology). For example, I happened to read about a mid air collision which occurred over Elizabeth NJ in the 1950’s, where I grew up. I then recall that the impact site was a few hundred yards from my junior high school. I then get a flood of memories of many teen events which happened at that school. None were dramatic, most ordinary, just part of growing up - like when new twin sisters from down South transferred into the school with charming Southern accents and pronounced words like “vee-hickle” (automobile), to the delight of the class. I have many such memories and associations these days which flood my awareness with little or no prompting. I suspect this was what Marcel Proust was describing in À la Recherche du Temps Perdu when he encountered the famous madeleine cookie. The unbidden appearance of such spontaneous memories is a remarkable, mysterious, and sometimes troubling experience. Most days, at least once, a thought - perhaps a memory, perhaps not - will suddenly intrude. Usually it is a sudden, unbidden fear I have omitted to do something or that I have done something wrong. These fears may or may not have any basis in reality. The point is they pop up out of nowhere. The related medical term which describes their sharp, penetrating character is “lancinating”.

For some time as well, I have imagined that I might, with increasing age and further cognitive decline, lose some of my intense attachment to life, thereby reducing my fear of death. I have, for instance, noticed a certain apathy set in to some people I have known with advancing age. I don’t know if this is realistic or even desirable as I imagine - thinking I might adjust and become more willing to loosen my tenacious attachment to life. Of course, this doesn’t relate much to sudden death, as I feared was happening the other day; rather it applies to living through the extended decline of a fatal disease, which takes some time. Interspersed with such musings are questions of whether I have made the best use of my talents over the course of my life; second guessing how I have used the abilities I may have.

I am presently re-reading (I do a lot of this, given the paucity of non-preachy, non-woke science fiction nowadays, especially given my inability to remember the details of what I have read of late) Influx, by Daniel Suarez. Part of the plot describes some geniuses who do not follow a safe career path and manage - without “credentials” to create novel inventions which literally change the world. Though I was always at or near the top of my class, I was no genius. I did have potential, though. At my father’s urging, I went into medicine. He had lived through and was largely informed by his experience of the Depression. He told me “doctors and their families always eat.” Complaining of his intrusive “encouragement” (bordering on bullying) all the way, and unknown even to myself back then, I actually shared all the same fears and economic insecurities - but lacked the self-awareness to know it. Now, having retired from a moderately successful 40+ year career as an anesthesiologist (I also graduated law school and was admitted to the bar, but I barely ever practiced), I ask myself if I might have done more, done better. For example, engineering was a discipline of which I knew noting as a kid. Now that I understand what it is, I realize I might well have had some talent there. I always had the interest in solving physical/mechanical problems. Alas, the road not taken. It does make me wonder, nonetheless, what might possibly have been. Fortunately, I don’t dwell on it.

Any effort at individual biography begins at the beginning; “I was born at this place and that time” and am now this old and live here”. I will die before the Earth has revolved around the sun less than 100 times, likely less. Similarly, to explore context in the broadest sense, I look to cosmology, which similarly begins with birth - “The Big Bang” - around 13 billion years ago, as best we know; the universe - a sparse confection, to be sure - is expanding, we learned recently, at an ever-increasing rate and in some billions of years will, itself, undergo either a heat death or a cold death - take your pick, but the final death of conscious creatures is all that needs concern us here (for an imaginative alternative ending, see The Final Question by Isaac Asimov). Among the remaining near-infinite questions as to situational awareness, an inquisitive human might ask, then, is how does one self-conscious, brief flash of a human life interface with this unfolding universe? Is the existence of a single human being anything more than a quantum fluctuation in the zero point field? What would the “Grand Chess Player in the Sky” observe happening on the chess board on which the flicker of my life moves among the other pieces? What can I even know of it from my senses and reason which - epistemologically - is not Revelation from somewhere on high?

As an Aristotelian, I am bound by time and causation. I find it necessary to perceive all - especially my own life - as having a beginning, a middle and an end. Rightly or wrongly, I impute the same concept to the universe as a whole. This is the only framework in which I can even begin to conceptualize it. In that regard, durations and distances extend orders of magnitude beyond my ability to even conceive; all I can do is notate them correctly, in the abstract, to something plus or minus a few orders of magnitude. I can’t really conceptualize the universe or its evolution over time. I can barely imagine a universe where - if the proton of a hydrogen atom were represented by a baseball, the electron “shell” (or its probability function, more correctly) would be about 3 km distant. I have no physical sense which shows or tells me the sheer enormity of empty space between subatomic particles which, if my body were to contact such “vacant” matter with any momentum at all, it will destroy the integral arrangement of the stuff that is me and kill me (that same empty space constitutes my subjectively solid physical being, as well). Until recently, no one had a clue that such is the nature of physical reality or that there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches/oceans on Earth. We have learned so much about the universe that even this fact is no longer surprising!

All of which is yet more perspective for the increasingly urgent musings which characterize me, the late septuagenarian, contemplating the end of my existence. As the edge of the known universe recedes, so does my lifelong goal of grasping a theory of everything - some synthesis, some gestalt, which is comprehensive, satisfying and internally consistent - the ultimate situational awareness. I once believed I could ‘get it’ before my end. No longer.

In old age, I find a puzzling mental turnabout has taken place. Witness to many of the scientific discoveries since my childhood beginning at the end of WWII, somehow, I took this avalanche of new understanding as merely a matter of course. I experienced no sense of wonder or awe as science adumbrated ever more of reality which both comprised me biologically and physically surrounded me. The universe appeared external to and separate from me. One might say I was born jaded; a blasé emotionally - unmovable observer. Now, however, much of my perception of reality - whether it be the size scale from Planck length to billions of light years - has become filled with awe, wonder and a great sense of mystery. Mystery particularly imbues my perception of life and consciousness.

For example, there is something about my knowing the complete biography of others who have died - whether they be relatives, friends or acquaintances - that leaves me with a sense of puzzlement. Specifically, the fact of their deaths - that that person’s existence has ended - their story told completely, in some sense gives me an overview of their entire lives; there is nothing about that life to yet be experienced. It has closed out. This may simply be ineffable, but something about knowing the beginning, middle (however incompletely) and the ending of a life, leaves me with a sense of wonder. This, of course, is an awareness of myself I will never have. One of the things which so troubles me about my own death is the fact that I will not get to experience it, mull it over, try to figure it out (that ‘situational awareness’ again) and report back on it - as I do with every other experience of my life; this ability is, perhaps, the hallmark of my life. I will also not get to know the future of humanity, the Earth or the still hidden wonders of physical reality. Are there other self-aware creatures out there? How did first life arise? Does random mutation and natural selection really result in new body form/new species, as opposed to merely modifications within species? Is this all a simulation? Leaving without knowing answers to these big questions, particularly, grieves me.

I have an even greater sense of mystery about my parents, grandparents, and unknown ancestors generations removed. I try to imagine the hardships my ancestors survived to live long enough to have children in a primitive and brutal world. I especially wish I knew more of the lives of my grandparents, who emigrated from Russia/Ukraine around the turn of the 20th century. As a child, I did ask them questions about their early lives, but I learned precious little, not really even enough dots to connect to get an image of their lives. They barely remembered their grandparents’ names. To some extent, my understanding of the context of my life is mediated or framed by knowing the life stories of of the people who were my own genetic lineage.

Ancillary to my aforementioned jadedness, somehow I was incapable of missing my grandparents as the young adult I was when they died. I surely do miss them now, however, and sorely wish I could spend hours learning all I could about their lives. While all I have of them are some fragile old photos, persistent modern media will allow our descendants to see and hear us many generations into the future. I am sufficiently taken with this idea, that I am a first-round investor in FOREVER.COM, a company which guarantees stored media will be available in whatever is the dominant format, for the life of the subscriber plus 100 years; they actually aim for a lot longer than that. My inner entrepreneur hopes there are enough people like me, who think about and value their descendants, to make this venture a success. I believe the ability to look back many generations and, perhaps, to see and hear elements of one’s self (physical resemblances or mannerisms) in ancestors, may have a significant impact on their own situational awareness - their own sense of belonging to the generations of the human family. My sense of this as a phenomenon arose when I saw an old photo of my paternal grandfather, Abraham, as a young man. In that photo, I saw a striking resemblance to my then 4 year-old son, Jonathan.

I wonder whether I lived out the best career path given my talents. Did I in effect, betray a higher calling, foregoing possibly more meaningful achievement for the sake of safety and security as my dad insisted I do? The safety of my course is also revealed by my remaining squarely within my comfort zone as a clinician. I avoided any effort to involve myself in departmental or hospital politics. I did not do so because of a lack of interest. No, I was interested in how things worked and had lots of ideas as to process improvements which might have been made. Rather, I stayed on the sidelines out of fear - fear of the internecine power struggles which are part of every organization and institution. I had no stomach for failure or defeat. That fear kept me in the clinic, where, in fairness, I must say I was dedicated and always did my very best.

As my aforementioned lineage is a window on the context of my humanity, awareness of my situation in the abstraction that is the universe, is mediated in a practical sense by my role as a citizen of the US during the course of my life. Here, too, I find recourse to the notion of betrayal of higher purpose. While as to myself, I merely have some question of whether that may have occurred, as to the US, it is sadly, a certainty. I have an overwhelming belief that, once the last, best hope for humanity, the US has so corrupted what once Constituted it, that it has degenerated into an autocratic, tyrannical system, rotten from the top down. Elites with no principles whatsoever pursue only power and control for their own sake. Given some familiarity with history, I cannot believe this will correct itself. Having fully betrayed its promise, the US is in the process of dissolution. I hope, for the sake of my children and grandchildren that its collapse will not be too violent.

Given the inherent myopia which results from interacting with the world and the universe beyond - largely via the inter-mediation of a self-betraying, collapsing nation state in 21st century Earth then, it seems a short conceptual leap (over a very, very long time) to envisage the ultimate triumph of entropy and bleak end of everything. Prior to Nietzsche’s trumpeting the arrival of modernity, such pessimistic endings were both unknown and irrelevant. Mercifully for them, our ancestors prior to that time mostly understood that purpose, meaning and endurance were baked into God’s Universe; that their individual lives - however difficult - were part of a greater whole. Though offset by greater material insecurities back then, such spiritual certainties likely offered a certain counterbalancing comfort. It may or may not be that human self-awareness is but a way station of the universe becoming conscious, but that possibility gives me little comfort.

I came into awareness with an ineffable longing for comfort, belonging and meaning; a modest optimism in a hopeful land of opportunity. For as long as I recall, I have had many burgeoning questions. I got some answers as to the nature of reality as I created a family and made my way in the world economically, emotionally and intellectually. I approach leaving that awareness deprived of my former optimism. This deep pessimism results from betrayal of the principles - Natural Law if you will - in pursuit of the very raw power whose exercise the Founders tried and failed to prevent. I leave heavy-hearted, with a modified set of questions and no answers to the Big Questions. I will continue to ask to the very end. There is no alternative.


Thanks for taking the time to write this. Still marinating…


It’s amazing
—and humbling—that someone with your many accomplishments could exhibit such…diffidence, I reckon is the word. It reminds me of talking with my father, then about eighty; he said, “People don’t like me.” I felt like saying :”No: they ADORE you, okay!” (Which they did.)And in that same or a contemporary conversation he choked up when he said, “My father never thought much of me.” I wondered and wonder if my grandfather’ attitude, or my father’s perception of it, was an underlying theme of his life, despite all the other varieties of love in which he became rich over his lifetime. People think our emotional life is over in our seventies and eighties, but it is not.

(As far as staying out of hospital politics: as the wife of a “player” in those machinations, let me offer my opinion that you did the right thing there.)

You’ve written a lot here that is beyond my ken, I can only respond to a little piece of it. Whether or not you could have done more or differently, you will always wonder, but don’t discount the fact that as you say, you are a chronicler, and you have found a third (or fourth) vocation in sharing your writing with us. Thanks.


You’re writing had me continually “homing in” on Dennis Prager’s Happiness is a serious problem


May I cite two eternal truths “carved in stone” as cited in David Deutsch’s The Beginning of Infinity (link is to my review).

The project of humans, ever since we attained the mental capacity to observe and try to understand the world we inhabit, has been to find good explanations for our observations. These empower us to do more things, including observing and understanding things we could not before, which in turn allow us to improve our lives in ways in which the exponential curve is visible even in my brief trajectory along the universe’s world line. These discoveries and the changes they engender inevitably create problems—for more than half of my life “Spam” was a tasty canned meat. But the same tools we use to understand and explain things can solve these problems. And so it goes, around and around, in a spiral which need never end.

It can end, of course, as human folly demonstrates, although not, so far, on a global scale. But humans and their descendants are universal explainers, which means there is no inherent bound upon our ability to explain, understand, and improve our lot.

I ended my review of Deutsch’s book (which I recommend reading or re-reading when dismay and angst at the folly evident all around us becomes acute) on this note:

The Enlightenment may also be thought of as a singularity. While there have been brief episodes in human history where our powers as universal explainers have been unleashed (Athens and Florence come to mind, although there have doubtless been a multitude of others throughout history which have left us no record—it is tragic to think of how many Galileos were born and died in static tribal societies), our post-Enlightenment world is the only instance which has lasted for centuries and encompassed a large part of the globe. The normal state of human civilisation seems to be a static or closed society dominated by tradition and taboos which extinguish the inborn spark of universal explanation which triggers the runaway exponential growth of knowledge and power. The dynamic (or open) society (1, 2) is a precious thing which has brought unprecedented prosperity to the globe and stands on the threshold of remaking the universe as we wish it to be.

If this spark be not snuffed by ignorance, nihilism, adherence to tradition and authority, and longing for the closure of some final utopia, however confining, but instead lights the way to a boundless frontier of uncertainty and new problems to comprehend and solve, then David Deutsch will be celebrated as one of the visionaries who pointed the way to this optimistic destiny of our species and its inheritors.


Thx John—I now have a new book on my schedule!


Wow! CivilWestman … I doff my metaphorical hat to you. It takes courage to look at one’s own circumstances as objectively as you have done – and even more courage to share your observations.

Take heart! You have achieved the most important thing any man could achieve in his life – you have fathered a son and brought him up as well as you could. The chain of life will carry on! If there were no next generation, then all that the human race has accomplished over thousands of years would vanish.

Perhaps your great-great-great-grandson will be the next Einstein, or the next George Washington. Or perhaps he will simply lead a good, moral, productive life and in turn father the next generation. You made that possible. You have done well! A life properly lived.


I will adventure to post a link to an not very recent article in “The Atlantic” that is somewhat relevant to the topic and that left a lasting impression on me:

This was, probably, the key revelation for me (sorry for the long quote):

I told him my conundrum: Many people of achievement suffer as they age, because they lose their abilities, gained over many years of hard work. Is this suffering inescapable, like a cosmic joke on the proud? Or is there a loophole somewhere—a way around the suffering?

Acharya answered elliptically, explaining an ancient Hindu teaching about the stages of life, or ashramas. The first is Brahmacharya, the period of youth and young adulthood dedicated to learning. The second is Grihastha, when a person builds a career, accumulates wealth, and creates a family. In this second stage, the philosophers find one of life’s most common traps: People become attached to earthly rewards—money, power, sex, prestige—and thus try to make this stage last a lifetime.

The antidote to these worldly temptations is Vanaprastha, the third ashrama, whose name comes from two Sanskrit words meaning “retiring” and “into the forest.” This is the stage, usually starting around age 50, in which we purposefully focus less on professional ambition, and become more and more devoted to spirituality, service, and wisdom. This doesn’t mean that you need to stop working when you turn 50—something few people can afford to do—only that your life goals should adjust.

Vanaprastha is a time for study and training for the last stage of life, Sannyasa, which should be totally dedicated to the fruits of enlightenment. In times past, some Hindu men would leave their family in old age, take holy vows, and spend the rest of their life at the feet of masters, praying and studying. Even if sitting in a cave at age 75 isn’t your ambition, the point should still be clear: As we age, we should resist the conventional lures of success in order to focus on more transcendentally important things.

I told Acharya the story about the man on the plane. He listened carefully, and thought for a minute. “He failed to leave Grihastha,” he told me. “He was addicted to the rewards of the world.” He explained that the man’s self-worth was probably still anchored in the memories of professional successes many years earlier, his ongoing recognition purely derivative of long-lost skills. Any glory today was a mere shadow of past glories. Meanwhile, he’d completely skipped the spiritual development of Vanaprastha, and was now missing out on the bliss of Sannyasa.


I think it is apparent what is s important to me from the OP. Beside continuing to try to understand the Big Picture, my goals are to be the best partner and father I can for my wife and children. I retired from anesthesia practice 3 years ago, at age 75, while I was working only 1 - 2 days/week. I had told myself that I would retire before I became too error prone, and I did so. To my knowledge, I never caused the death or severe injury to a patient in my 40+ year career. My other goal at this point is to leave as much of our savings as I can to our children. I expect they will be living in a world with far fewer opportunities and opportunities to save for their old age.


As cognitive decline sets in approaching the age of 70, my own concerns reflect yours. The Big Questions have been at the forefront for a longer time since the only family I might participate in creating cannot, due to my choices and circumstance, be my own. But such participation must respect the hard won moral territory – aka honor – won by the sacrifices that parents, especially fathers, must make for their children, especially their sons. We’re in a world where the centralization of wealth and power in the public and private sectors has produced a deadly embrace between female hypergamy and an increasingly effete pseudo-alpha male elite. The psychophysiological development of boys is being crushed with testosterone levels and plummeting total fertility rates of the developed world being only the tip of the iceberg.

But that all gets into subjective notions of “value”. Some transhumanists assure us that these concerns, too, shall pass into irrelevance as technology brings about the quasi-Biblical Glorified Bodies as well as a New Heaven and a New Earth. They meet my skepticism with a combination of “Oh, Ye, of little faith!” and “Resistance is futile.”

So, my attempt to reach a peace accord with the transhumanists is to find common ground in Truth rather fighting over our differing notions of Beauty. After all, transhumanists rely as much on Truth, otherwise known as “science”, for their technology, as do we who value humanity. The transistor has rendered a technology of immense power to disclose Truth via science if only people would wake up to the discovery of the Algorithmic Information Criterion for model selection in the natural sciences that has been with us during the entire explosion, over our lifetime, of transistor density.

I may go down, along with my cognitive capacity, to defeat in this effort, but it is the best I can offer to my extended family and I will, therefore, not die in despair, even if in immense sadness.


I’m worried tht the Dems and Davos types will achieve their goal,of eliminating any kind of personal financial security, y’know, “F— you!” money.
Because nobody should be able to purchase anything that some people can’t afford.
“the weak lay hand on what the strong have done/Till that be tumbled which was lifted high/ And discord follow upon unison/And all things at one common level lie.”


I usually start deciding whether or not to read a book by looking at the One Star reviews on Amazon. A few of these reviews can be very valuable, although often they are mere whines about the deficiencies in the Kindle version.

I have never seen such an outpouring of well-expressed criticisms of any book as for Deutsch’s “Beginning of Infinity”!

On the other hand, there is a great preponderance of highly positive Five Star reviews. Clearly, this is a controversial book which stimulates strong responses (pro & con) from its audience. I guess I am going to have to get a copy, read the book, and make up my own mind. Let’s add it to the stack!

For the avoidance of doubt, I will not be purchasing that copy through Amazon. There are limits!


It is now the official policy of the U.S. Federal Reserve that the currency they “manage” should depreciate by 2% per year over the long term. This means that any asset denominated in “dollars” will lose 20% of its value every 12 years. The introduction of central bank digital currencies (CBDC), now being actively investigated by central banks around the world, including the Federal Reserve, will allow the implementation of “demurrage” or “rusting money” as advocated by economic crank Silvio Gesell. This replaces the capricious mechanism of inflation by increasing the money supply with a money that explicitly depreciates at a specified rate, with the central bank able to adjust the rate to goose the economy when it believes people are “hoarding” the money it issues.

The goal of this is, along with allied schemes such as wealth taxes, is reduction of the population to a single class of proletarians with no independent assets of their own and thus easily controlled by the threat of loss of their incomes.

A CBDC also has the “advantage” that all transactions are visible to the issuer of the currency and one’s money can be made invalid for transactions the state does not wish the holder to make. Time notes in “How China’s Digital Currency Could Challenge the Almighty Dollar”:

Digital currencies can also be tailored to specific purposes. For example, in the Chinese pilot program, money has an expiration date of a few weeks because authorities are hoping to drive consumption in an economy trying to recover from the pandemic. Cash can be customized for other purposes. If the government is trying to stimulate the hospitality industry in a certain area, for example, it can program money to be used for meals and drinks but not for, say, petrol or power tools. If a hurricane devastates a coastal town, the government can instantly send relief payments to those affected to be spent only on essential supplies.

Oh brave new world, that has such concepts in 't!


This is the most perfect form of slavery yet imagined. Will people cooperate in their own enslavement or will they rebel?


My late brother-in-law was part of a circle of friends & associates who did each other “favors”. One owned a farm and shared produce in season. Another was a highly skilled fully-equipped welder who could gladly fix a farm gate. Yet another was a skilled auto mechanic with a full set of tools who could keep tractors & automobiles running in peak condition. Etc. Minor favors could be settled with a beer, and all the parties were flexible, understanding, and mutually trusting.

Perhaps many people will simply opt out of an excessively intrusive government’s financial scheme? Others will undoubtedly find ways to abuse the government’s system – think of the reported misuses of government EBT cards today. Let’s not be too despondent – we vastly outnumber the bastards who would control us!


Yes but, in medicine for instance, there have been regulations which prohibit doing “favors”. Like my BMD couldn’t make a house call on a Medicare patient, even if he didn’t charge for it. It seems there’s nowhere they can’t reach.

Slightly off-topic, but we had a friend, a surgeon, who left East Germany as a young man, because he wanted to be a doctor, and in Communist East Germany, it was illegal for anyone whose father was a doctor to go to medical school. That’s what we’re heading for here. And it makes a mockery of what people like us consider our last earthly task: to pass our wealth along to our children, and to inspire them to excellence.
We just got the alumni magazine ofUniversity of ,Pennsylvania Medical School (now Perelman). Pretty much all they care about now is “representation”, including “ First generation low income”.

Wake UP America. This kinda thing is Soviet Union shit.


Indeed! Regulators got to regulate. But there are limits to what they can do – especially once more & more of us do not willingly comply. For example, the “favors” that my late brother-in-law’s group did for each other were a clear breach of income tax regulations – they were effectively receiving undeclared income from each other. But admission to that circle was very restricted; most of them had known each other since school days. No-one who took government seriously need apply.

FedGov cannot pay its way, and the whole structure is beginning to creak. The system depends on the great majority of people voluntarily complying with Our Betters rules & regulations. But Our Betters are doing everything they can to reduce the number of us who will willingly comply.


I subscribe to this, of course. I think my pessimism derives, in part, from my lifelong immersion in medicine, while your optimism is informed by engineering. Engineers are used to solving problems, even difficult ones. Doctors are forced to live in the knowledge that some diseases are invariably fatal, regardless of the treatment. This surely underlies my world/universe view. And I definitely like to explain stuff.


On the other hand, the mechanical engineer who crafts a bearing knows it will start wearing out the moment it is put into service. The mining engineer knows the ore body he is currently developing will certainly eventually be played out and abandoned. The NASA engineer knows the rocket he is so carefully preparing for flight will be active for only a few minutes and end up at the bottom of the ocean.

One could make the argument that pessimism has been bred into humans through untold generations. It is a survival trait. The pessimist who recognized that “What can go wrong will go wrong” took precautions and survived to raise the next generation, while the optimist charged ahead blindly and tended to fall off the cliff or meet the bear.

What is particularly striking about modern society is the short-term focus – me! me! me! Archaeology & history show that human beings had always recognized themselves as part of a stream that began before they were born and continued after they died. Hence babies were named after grandparents and graves were serious issues, not just for pharaohs in pyramids. Now babies are named after today’s evanescent celebrities and corpses are burned & the ashes tossed away.

Has the death of religion resulted in us losing focus on our place in the stream of time? Now, there is a topic to wrestle with!


I’m not sure if it’s a question of religion losing its influence but rather the ancient philosophical conflict between a cyclic view of time versus time as a linear process with irreversible progress as it flows.

Ancient societies observed regularities such as the progression of seasons, night and day, the phases of the Moon, and the apparent motion of the Sun along the constellations of the zodiac, and the succession of human generations and concluded that time itself was cyclic. Living in societies which were largely static, this model fit well with the assumption that time and history repeated endlessly. This view is embedded in many Eastern religions as the “wheel of time”.

The concept of linear time appeared in Zoroastrianism and Judaism and was inherited by Christianity and Islam. All viewed history as punctuated by singular events flowing from a Creation and causing irreversible changes such as the appearance of a Messiah, with further changes prophesied for the future.

The linear view became strengthened during the Renaissance when it became clear that progress was occurring at a rate one could observe even within a single human lifetime and accelerated enormously with the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution, where change was dramatic even on the scale of decades. This led to the notion of progress as inherent in history and to teleological theories of history that forecast progress as inevitable in the future.

Perhaps what has happened, visible within my lifetime, is a loss of confidence in the very notion of progress and the beginning of the reversion to a cyclical view of time. If you believe there is “only one Earth” and “we are killing it”, or that there are “limits to growth”, or that we are approaching the “end of science” or arriving at the “end of history”, then you are likely to reject the notion of continued progress and accept a static future where the best that can be hoped for is keeping some of what we have. Combine that with economic and technological stagnation (in almost every field with the exception of computing and communications) over the last half century and the long term view seems not worth pursuing. So, instead, why not focus on the short term?

Here is a long Britannica article (peppered with an extraordinary number of advertisements) on “Cyclic View of Time” followed by an article on the “One-way View of TIme”.