Taoist mythology, Lanna history, mythology, the nature of time and other considered ramblings

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Location: Chiangrai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Author of many self-published books, including several about Thailand and Chiang Rai, Joel Barlow lived in Bangkok 1964-65, attending 6th grade with the International School of Bangkok's only Thai teacher. He first visited ChiangRai in 1988, and moved there in 1998.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Material change

Earth Size

Long, long ago – impossible to tell how long ago – our Earth way well have been smaller. Inside, toward its center, it is extremely hot – but it is no more possible to tell how hot or, again, for how long it has been that hot. And the extent of that heat may well have determined the size of the globe.
According to plate tectonics theory, Earth's shell consists of a dozen large plates and several small ones, which move. Incorporating the much older idea of continental drift, this theory complicates the study of geography by doing away with the idea of fixed continents. Earth’s surface layer, from 50 to 100 kilometers (31 to 62 miles) thick, is held to be composed of large and small plates, together constituting the rigid lithosphere which rests on, and slides over, an underlying, weaker layer of partially molten rock (the asthenosphere).
The most conspicuous feature of Earth's surface is how it’s divided into continents and oceans. Continental and oceanic crusts are of different composition and thickness: continents are largely of granitic composition, and somewhat lighter than the basaltic ocean floor. They’re 30 to 40 kilometers thick, while the oceanic crust measures only 6 to 7 kilometers. Continents have greater buoyancy, and float much higher than the oceanic crust, accounting for the difference between the two principal levels of the Earth's surface.
That much is now accepted as fact, but in no way disallows theorizing that Earth was once smaller – perhaps much smaller. It may have rotated and orbited at different rates, too!

Material change

Stress, rejection and anxiety can produce very real biochemical changes (including neurological damage) with extreme, and on-going, consequences (post-traumatic stress syndrome, PTSD), and within a context of social alienation, this is worse than within a context involving a supportive (loving) grouping. This we have come to accept, mostly without dealing with many of its important implications.
Being still of a barbaric, competitive (and overly punitive) society, the capitalistic system dominating at least half of our world prefers quick and short-lasting gratifications to either accepting responsibility for consequences or the individual’s status as but part of several greater wholes. This is not only immature, but dangerous – especially in light of a preponderant self-image as more mature than others, and therefore deserving of control.
A fairy-tale my wife told me, part of her Lahu tribe heritage, I’ve used elsewhere, in a very different context, but it seems relevant and worth repeating here: Long, long ago, people had wings but no hands, and ate only fruit. They could fly but had no fire. They slept in trees; in the rainy season they were cold; they couldn’t stay warm! But a kind of jungle animal, a raccoon or nocturnal squirrel (in Lahu, fahsu) with 5-finger hands, did have fire, and wanted to be able to fly up to fruit in trees too. The squirrel used fire he made from hitting rocks together to keep warm, but envied wings, and finally arranged a trade. Mankind got fire, and flying squirrels got to eat fruit.
To deal well with reality, we must come to accept that no blessing comes unmixed, that nothing is purely good and involving no negative aspects. Then we must re-examine the idea of culture, re-integrate it with actual communities, and learn to accept both ourselves and others as imperfect but still deserving (although of only limited material opulence – no source of any real happiness, anyway).
Then, and only then, might we become able to deal with the angers so violently torturing us (and at least somewhat control our hatreds, jealousies, resentments and other barbaric pettinesses).

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