Pick a Country…

To track current events, particularly in the US, YOU MUST LEARN GEOGRAPHY. Your tax dollars support military and para-military activity in, perhaps 80 countries.

The national election of 2016 marked full scale public awareness of the growing necessity of some kind of cooperative management of a global system. I for one realized I didn’t even know the lay of the land on the planet, let alone, how best to engage the peoples of the world.

I bought an Atlas. Sorry folks, you can’t just pick up an Atlas at a used bookstore. Get a current one, it’s worth it. If you can, get one very well ‘coded.’ I bought the Fifth edition of the New Concise World Atlas by Oxford. Country lines are clear, border disputes are noted and presentations vary from simple, (inside cover) to complex.

Here’s a simple trick. I just arbitrarily picked Turkey. I must confess, I had no idea that Turkey shared a border with Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq and Syria. I spent a couple of days, memorizing the list of countries sharing a border with Turkey.

I cannot understate the benefit of just this small bit of information about Turkey as I now read about the falling Lira and the shift of Turkey towards the BRIC nations. It has an entirely different level of meaning.

We need that depth of understanding folks. Voting is a big responsibility. I for one am acutely aware of the limits of my formal education, and my historical dependence upon filtered news.

The good news? It’s wonderful to feel better informed about one’s world. It piques one’s curiosity. Remember curiosity? It’s that delicious source of inspiration that drove our inquiries at the ripe old age of 5, 10 and maybe even 15.

The Arctic, Hotbed of Activity

Looking at our planet from various vantage points is mind-expanding, hence our topic today. We can all do with a bit of mind-expanding.

We all ooh and awe as we see our beautiful planet from space but what do we learn about it? It’s precious? Yes. It’s extraordinarily unique in the cosmos? Yes. It’s perhaps, vulnerable? Yes. I say ‘perhaps’ because, left to it’s own devices, who knows? Well, some folks know but that’s a topic for another day.

Let’s look a bit closer at our planet from the vantage point of extreme north.  Have you got your atlas handy? Well, well, will you look at that? It’s the Arctic Ocean or the Arctic ‘Mediterranean Sea’ depending upon who you ask.

Ask the locals and you’ll hear about the Baffin Bay, Barents Sea, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, East Siberian Sea, Greenland Sea, Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, Northwest Passage, and a few other tributaries.

The Arctic Ocean is bordered by Canada, Denmark, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and the US. Hmmn. Is there an accident waiting to happen here?  We’ll keep an eye on this folks.

News from the Arctic

Arctic Shipping Dramatically Impacts World Economy https://www.rt.com/business/455890-arctic-route-shipment-eighty-million/

West Asia? Yes, West Asia

I recently attended a lecture by one of my favorite writer-researchers. Parag Khanna has authored 5 books since I had the pleasure of meeting  him. His first book, The Second World, reads like a travel guide for diplomats, et al. He tours countries noting what they’re doing well. Doing well you ask? Who’s doing well these days?

That’s precisely my point. Call me a cock-eyed optimist, a rarity these days. Why might there be so few? I believe we’re all targets of ‘manufactured fear and pessimism’ but, moving along…

As Parag discussed his latest book, The Future is Asian, I was amazed at his command of the subject matter and, of course, humbled yet again. My most significant take-away, was that folks in China, Southeast Asia, Russia and  Iran all refer to ‘the Middle East’ as West Asia.

So, as you look at Syria, Libya, Jordan, Iraq and Israel as West Asia, what comes to mind? I suggest you refer to your atlas, and really look at West Asia in relation to it’s neighbors.

There’s a lot of food for thought here. Does your atlas include railroad lines being built as we speak? Fiber optic cables being laid? Oil and gas pipelines transiting 4,5 and 6 countries? There is a tremendous amount of development occurring there. I for one am happy for folks. It seems to me, we might just all get along.

For ambitious folks, Parag’s latest book: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-future-is-asian-parag-khanna/1129747828?ean=9781501196263#/

Harvard Education on Ebay? Yep

Have you ever marveled at the beauty of the language in the Declaration of Independence? The Gettysburg Address?

Philosophizing and writing were common indulgences in 18th and 19th century America. Granted, literacy rates were low but ideas were in the air and newspapers were read aloud in cafés and discussed at family dinners.

The literature that informed those conversations included scrolls of ancient Egypt, transcriptions of rules of law from The Ottoman Empire and the works of Plato and Socrates, et al. Conversations  with the Chief of the Iroquois Nation made their way into the mix.

Early on, a Harvard Education was a liberal education. It was education for it’s own sake, not preparation for employment. A ‘man of letters’ was a well-read man*.

In 1909, Charles Elliot, then President of Harvard, noted that a liberal education could be obtained by spending 15 minutes a day reading from a collection of books that could fit on a five-foot shelf. In line with his objective to educate all that were so inclined, he selected worthy works, built a collection and sold it to the public.

Today, this collection can be bought for around $300 on eBay. Not bad for an education that is, in my view, better than the education offered at most American Universities today. This education plunks one right down into a context designed to help us think, to inspire us to write, to make us laugh and to make us cry. One cannot work their way through this collection without ‘picking up IQ points,’ and reconsidering everything modern in relation to our very human nature.

So, my recommendation? Do a search on eBay for Harvard Classics, also known as Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf.  You’ll find selected books, partial collections and perhaps a complete collection of the first 51 volumes. I have to say, if you do, I’m happy for you. I don’t own the collection. When I learned of it, I already had some of the selections in my own library.  I do however, peek at the list of works included and keep it in mind as I browse local library book sales.

I am using the traditional all-inclusive term ‘man’ here folks as, English grammar works. Efforts to restructure language to conform to a contemporary agenda will necessarily be short-lived. My two cents? Don’t bother to conform. Just speak from the heart.

Academic Holism

Indeed, all things are connected. That being the case, it behooves us to become academic generalists. The good news is that it’s great fun; we get to follow our nose. Structured school settings necessarily narrow our focus. Unfortunately they do so arbitrarily without regard to what we find fascinating.

As readers know, I’ve been studying geography.  Imagine my surprise when, as I hop to my space studies, I find that territories in space are being circumscribed as we speak! My geographic mind-set has prepared me to simply expand my understanding and voìla, this rather sophisticated conversation about defining a space wilderness makes sense.  http://bit.ly/2Xv9bv0

Queen of Twelve Countries?

It’s August 29, 2019 and I just learned that the Queen of England is the Queen of twelve ‘countries’ to this day! I put ‘countries’ in quotes because each of the twelve is a ‘sovereign state’ for purposes of international relations but, and if you ask me, it is a big ‘but,’ they remain Commonwealth realms. 

This from Wikipedia regarding Commonwealth realms; the Queen “holds the highest position in each Commonwealth realm and may perform such functions as issuing executive orders, commanding the military forces, and creating and administering laws.” Oh. That strikes me as important. 

For fun I’m going to list the title she holds in each of her realms. Have you got your atlas handy? She is:

  • Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Antigua and Barbuda,
  • Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Australia,
  • Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas,
  • Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Barbados,
  • Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Belize,
  • Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada,
  • Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Grenada,
  • Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Jamaica,
  • Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of New Zealand,
  • Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Papua New Guinea,
  • Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Saint Christopher and Nevis,
  • Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Saint Lucia,
  • Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines,
  • Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Solomon Islands,
  • Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Tuvalu, and last but not least,
  • Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

I stumbled onto this looking into today’s news. It’s reported that the new Prime Minister of Great Britain, Boris Johnson, asked the Queen to suspend parliamentary meetings for a few weeks. Hmm. Might it have been the other way around?

Taking Stock 1

Hopefully you’re enjoying Staysane.  Hopefully you’re inspired to chart the course of your own education and find my ‘two cents’ helpful.

I like to use  the metaphor, ‘my two cents on the table’ because one can easily take them or leave them. That ensures that one is indeed charting the course of their  own education. Truth be told, that is the key to ensuring that each and every single one of us thrives in our own unique way. Somehow, I think that’s the point of it all, to wax philosophically for a moment.

Looking back at my first five posts I can see a few take-aways:

  • not knowing something is not an embarrassment but rather, an opportunity,
  • we live on a very big planet with so many ‘countries’, it behooves us to keep an atlas on hand,
  • any of us can improve ‘our game’ and gain a truly rich and wonderful education, resources abound and,
  • delightful, shocking and unsettling surprises await us.

Where to go from here? You may choose to pick up any of the threads of information alluded to in my first five posts. Pathways at hand may inspire you to consider how our schools help or hinder us, or, how the lay-of-the-land looks from different points of view (gotta tell you, this path has taken me from anthropology to quantum physics, who knew?)

Uh oh, one look at the books on Dr. Elliott’s Five Foot Shelf and I can see the lack of sophistication in my own writing. Hmmn, I prefer to allude to my style as ‘folksy.’ You may, on reading one or another of these books, be inspired to improve your writing or,  read a half-dozen biographies of important people.

Taking stock, I am going to pick up that little phrase in the titles held by Queen Elizabeth the Second, ‘by the grace of god.’ That seems to me to be one of those things that seems rather innocuous but opens many doors for the curious. So, I will follow that path. Join me?

The Trail Leads Everywhere!

As I noted in Taking Stock 1, Queen Elizabeth the Second is Queen ‘by the grace of God’.  Would it surprise you to know that, as I ventured to explore that path, I found pathways branching to… virtually everywhere? Questions that arose for me include;

  • How many sitting monarchs today are monarchs ‘by the grace of God?’
  • How many monarchs in the past ruled ‘by the grace of God?’

Notice here, I’ve begged an important question. Do the monarchs of today rule? Maybe. I’ve heard that the Queen of England is the richest woman in Europe. If true, that has to count for something.

I can’t even guess how many history books I would have to review to address the second question. I do know however that as I study history in the future, 1) I will be particularly attentive to this question and 2) this question will play some role in my selection of particular texts.

  • And I wondered; upon precisely what conception of God does the Queen’s rule rest?

This is an easier question to address. There is a Church of England. It traces its origins to the Roman province of Britain c. 3 A.D. Ahh, now we’re in territory I only recently discovered. Picture this, here I am, with a doctorate degree from the University of California and I meet a remarkable fellow with a PhD in Patristics. Huh? Patristics? Well, come to find out, Patristics or Patrology is the study of the early Christian writers  who are designated Church Fathers.

I want to study Patristics! What? I have to learn, Latin, Greek, Sumerian? That’s a bit much.

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has a Satellite?

Speaking of royalty, on January 31, 2018 Space X announced its’  launch of a Luxembourg Satellite! Hmmn.

It seems Luxembourg is the world’s only remaining sovereign grand duchy. Grand Duke Henri is a ‘constitutional monarch’ rather like Queen Elizabeth the Second. With an area of roughly 1,000 square miles, it seems that little country is doing pretty well for itself.  Luxembourg is the world’s second largest investment fund centre (after the U.S.) and the most important private banking centre in the eurozone. In 2013, it was ranked  as the 2nd safest tax haven in the world (after Switzerland).

And, with it’s opening of The University of Luxembourg in 2003, it seems destined for bigger things. The University has three faculties: the Faculty of Science, Technology and Communication, the Faculty of Law, Economics and Finance and the Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education. Oh, and it hosts three interdisciplinary research centers: the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (?) and the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History  (digital history?)

In sum folks, little Luxembourg is a major player, if not one of the drivers of the world economy of the 21st century.

So my interest in developments in space intersects with my interest in monarchies, history and politics. Are we having fun yet?

Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg  (Henri Albert Gabriel Félix Marie Guillaume,) born April 16, 1955 has reigned since October 7, 2000. He is the eldest son of Grand Duke Jean and Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium and first cousin of Phillips, King of the Belgians. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luxembourg, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Luxembourg)