One of my companions is dying.
This is not my first rodeo. I have had many pet companions in my life, and some have lived long lives, and some have had their lives abruptly shortened. But either way, each has left a unique, cherished mark on my life that I would not change in any way. But while that does not negate the sadness and sense of loss that I feel when the end occurs, there is a lesson even in that.
In one of my first blog posts about robots, I wrote this:
My dog is much more than something that barks and performs tricks. When she greets me at the door, she teaches me the value of companionship. When she’s hungry or wants to go out, she reinforces the responsibility that comes with caring for another living being. When she snuggles up to me on the couch, she is rewarding me for the trust I have earned from her. When she sleeps between me and my wife on the bed, and we are both holding her, she acts as a conduit between us that enhances my feelings of coexistence and connectedness. And when she ultimately moves on to doggie heaven – as all dogs do at some point in time – she will teach me an important lesson about grief and the cycle of life. As all my dogs have.
Every pet we have is like a mini cycle of life: From the time we get them as a little peanut and have to teach them the ropes, through their adolescent and adult years, and into old age when we have to tend to them and ease them on. And every one of these little cycles reinforces both the connection we all have as living beings and the impermanence of that connection. I cherish my dogs and cats not only because I love them, but because I know that the time I have with them is limited and precious. And that is the way it should be with all of our friends and companions, animal or human.
So as I ease my companion in his final days and help him move on, I will try to focus less on the grief and more on the remembrance and duty I have to repay him for the companionship he has provided me over the years. And the thing about our animal companions is this: They do not concern themselves with remorse or death. They are creatures of the moment, and my remaining moments with him should be the same.
Editor’s note: the title and tone of this post were inspired by Brit Bennett’s essay “I Don’t Know What to Do With Good White People.”
I seem to be surrounded by Real Americans these days. Real Americans determined to make America great again; Real Americans determined to round up those illegals and send them back home; Real Americans who want to deal with those crime infested inner cities by warehousing people of a certain color; Real Americans who never threw their sheets and ropes away, but kept them in the closet for a day such as today; and so on. Continue reading
Note: for a discussion on the evolutionary basis for consciousness, please review part one of this series. For a discussion on the human condition with respect to consciousness, please review part two.
Will a machine ever become conscious? In order to answer that question, we must first deconstruct it. When that question is posed, it is usually asking two things: First, will machines ever be conscious in general terms (whatever that means), and second, will machines ever be conscious in the way that humans are conscious? Since the second question is the easiest to answer, I will address that one first. Continue reading
Back in February of 2014 I wrote a post entitled To Dissent. I encourage you to go read it, but I want to quote the final paragraph of that post:
The times are always tumultuous for dissent, now more than ever. But if we are to regain the balance between the government and the people, if we are to take charge of the destiny of our societies and our species, if we are to make a better life for ourselves and our children, if we are to proactively look towards the future instead of reactively running from it, if we are to continue to rise to the challenges provided to us as intelligent, sentient beings, then we must on occasion stand and make ourselves heard, even if our legs are shaking – especially when our legs are shaking – because to not do so is to disregard and dishonor the great gifts bestowed upon us by those who have courageously done so in the past.
Hannah Arendt is perhaps most famous for her discussion of what she termed the ‘banality of evil.’ In studying how the atrocities perpetuated by Germany under control of the Nazis came about, she reached the conclusion that great evil can only come about through the compliance of the people; that the truly bad can only happen when good people put their heads down and, whether from fear, or tiredness, or dismay allow it to unfold unchecked. Continue reading
As always in a democracy, there are issues where we can agree, and there are issues where we cannot agree. I can agree, for example, that the establishment has done a poor job of protecting the middle class. I can also agree that it has done a poor job of allowing minorities to enter it. Where I cannot agree is that the person gleefully supported by David Duke and white supremacists is the right person to fix it. I will never agree with that. Ever.
There was once a period of time on this planet that was perfect for growth and prosperity for the human race. For over ten thousand years, the earth’s temperature hovered around a relatively narrow band. The climate was relatively stable. This stability allowed people to reasonably predict when it was good to grow food, and how much needed to be stored until the next growing season. This allowed humans to settle and invest in agriculture. This led to civilization. Seemingly infinite resources promoted an ideology of endless growth. Endless growth resulted in a massive population explosion and the creation of a global village. It is what has allowed the human race to set up shop on nearly every corner of planet earth. As the cradle of humanity, earth was as close to Eden as reality and human nature allowed. Continue reading
Jim Wright over at Stonekettle Station has his usual eloquent take on the so-called Colin Kaepernick incident , in which he describes, in somewhat great length, his opinion on whether Kaepernick should stand (or not) during the playing of the National Anthem. As a veteran myself, I would like to add my opinion, which is this: Continue reading