New and important: practicable space exploration



Yuri Milner, a Russian zillionaire, is proposing to spend $100 million on light sail driven space probes that could reach Alpha Centauri within about 20 years. He has recruited Stephen Hawking to shill for him and has enlisted Mark Zuckerberg for his board of directors.

Alpha Centauri is the closest star to us, at 4 light-years. The light sails are expected to be accelerated to 1/5th C, the speed of light, by a powerful laser.

At noon [yesterday, in fact] today, Yuri Milner, the Russian tech billionaire, will join Stephen Hawking atop Manhattan’s Freedom Tower, where the pair will announce Starshot, a $100 million dollar research program, the latest of Milner’s “Breakthrough Initiatives.” (Mark Zuckerberg will serve on Starshot’s board, alongside Milner and Hawking.) With the money, Milner hopes to prove that a probe could make the journey to Alpha Centauri in only 20 years.

It was great to hear some hopeful news for a change.

On reflection, it is obvious that our own planet’s system might well have been mapped by tiny invisible cameras carried by light sails from another star system in any age past. Going further afield from our mechanistic 21st century headspace, we might allow ourselves to consider the view held by Terence McKenna. He held that the most practical way to get to distant stars is by spores travelling through the depths of cold, foodless, and irradiated space. His view – or, according to what the psychedelic mushrooms told him – their story, was that the mushrooms he ingested travelled as spores between star systems, and can colonize any carbon based system, and communicate with the minds of those that happen to eat them.

If you think this method of interstellar travel and communication is weirder than micron-thin lightsails being sent by lasers, that is merely a local and chronic (centred on our own time) prejudice. Expand the range of allowed possibilities. There is no reason to consider current human technologies, and human-only communications, as the only ways to get around this galaxy.

McKenna’s True Hallucinations is well worth a read. And if a taste for psychedelics makes me a bad conservative…I offer no apologies. The same taste made me immune to all materialistic doctrines: marxism, materialism, reductionism, freudianism, and any of the nonsense so well described in Roger Scruton’s Fools, Frauds and Firebrands.



Two charts explain Trump: why the US social contract is breaking




Steen Jakobsen, chief economist at Danish investment bank Saxo Bank, believes the “social contract” — the agreement between the ruled and the rulers — is now broken, and this can be seen in the rise of Donald Trump.

Jakobsen says we may have reached a nadir in terms of political ambitions, investments, capital expenditure, employment, inflation and growth. He sees this as the end of “planned economies” that were adopted after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In a recent research note, he said the ratio between employee compensation to gross domestic product in the U.S. is the lowest in history and corporate profits are at their highest-ever point. This, he believes, is a key reason why U.S. citizens now want anything but the traditional establishment.




A villain’s life celebrated



The Establishment is turning out for one of the biggest villains this country has ever produced: author of the Great Global Warming Scam, progenitor of trillions of dollars of wasted wealth, immiserator of nations, wrecker of economies, blighter of landscapes with noxious bird-killing giant windmills, preventer of economic development in the poor nations of the world, Maurice Strong. In today’s Hill Times

There will be a celebration of life for former public servant Maurice Strong at 3:30 p.m. in the Sir John A. Macdonald Building in Ottawa. Along with members of Maurice Strong’s family, this celebration will include Governor General David Johnston, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Speaker of the Senate George J. Furey, Speaker of the House of Commons Geoff Regan, Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, as well as former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, John Ralston Saul, and former prime ministers Joe Clark and Paul Martin. James Wolfensohn, former World Bank President, and Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations will also be at the ceremony. A broad range of Senators and Members of Parliament will be coming to pay tribute along with representatives from the diplomatic corps.

Those who long for earthly justice will wait for centuries before this man’s reputation matches his vile deeds and influence.

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Mathew 16:26


Trump scares the Davos crowd

I guess that Trump has the minimum amount of money these days to buy himself complete political independence. That is what scares the rulers of the earth today, who are congregated in Davos, Switzerland, busy networking with the latest chattering class memes. Goldman Sachs does not own him. He can run a Presidential campaign out of his own pocket.

This alarms our invisible government.

The prospect of Trump in the White House is ratcheting up anxiety among the 2,500 business and political leaders gathered at the Swiss ski resort for the annual World Economic Forum. With less than two weeks before voting in primaries gets under way and Trump in the Republican Party lead, those who fear a rise in protectionism and economic mismanagement are speaking out against the billionaire property developer.

“Unfortunately I do think that if there were to be a Trump administration the casualty would likely be trade,” said Eric Cantor, a former Republican House Majority Leader and now vice chairman of Moelis & Company. “That’s a very serious prospect for the world.”

Be afraid, elites, be very afraid.

The presidential race shows that the U.S. is not immune to the wave of populism sweeping the globe. In the U.S. case, the economy has recovered faster than other developed nations from the global slump of 2008 and 2009, and yet wages haven’t kept pace with a rebound in corporate profits. That’s helping candidates like Trump and Bernie Sanders who say the system is rigged against average Americans.

I recall that great patriot, public servant and war hero, George Herbert Walker Bush, being defeated after one term by a hillbilly genius called Bill Clinton because Bush was thought to be out of touch with Americans in an ordinary economic downturn. Here we are, in an eviscerated economy, and a President playing golf more than he is at the office, and a Democrat representative of the billionaire class trying to succeed a Democrat representative of the Muslim Brotherhood. How likely to you think Hillary is to be the next American President?

Kai Murros

This man must not prevail! But not before you see his lecture. No pussy-footing with this guy. A genuine white nationalist.


“psychopathic capitalist class and their parasitic minions”.

“complete annihilation of the decadent academic class.”

“to become a monster to protect those you love”.

‘the epicentre of the global capitalist system must in the coming years suffer the violent convulsions of the national revolution”

“the iron will to rebuild, recreate, and rejuvenate the nation”

He apparently means what he says and I am interested, if not baffled, why he has not come to the attention of thought control authorities. Oh well. Genuine national socialism must be so powerless as to leave the authorities amused by its presumption.

Murros preaches an unadulterated Nazism, a term which is seldom applied correctly: a combination of racial romanticism, utopian fantasy, anti-capitalism and anti-Marxism, and appeals to violence. I can hear Ferric Jaggar and the Iron Dream in the distance.



Skyhookers versus the Up From Belows

There is an immense cosmic Opinion Bowl, the Cosmodome. It seats a hundred million people, most of whom, at a given time, are dead spirits. They shout as lustily as the small minority of the audience who at any given time are living.The game lasts eternally. There are time-outs for civilizational collapses, plagues, and really serious wars. If the Opinion Bowl has been at various times destroyed, it has always been rebuilt. In the Opinion Bowl one fight has gone on since the dawn of civilization. It is a struggle for dominance in explanations, between the Skyhookers and the Up-From-Belows. There are other matches too, besides the Skyhookers versus Up-from- Belows, and sub-fights within the factions. The immense, indeed near infinite audience, forms into factions and tribes at the speed of thought.

Prominent captains of the Skyhookers have included Plato, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Aristotle, Descartes, Pascal and other luminaries of the Western canon. Monotheists tend to be Skyhookers, but not exclusively, nor even to the extent of denying the arguments of the Up-from-belows. Indeed the question of theism – is there an organizing God? – tends to confuse the debate somewhat, because the debate is really about whether matter is sufficiently self-organizing for conscious observers (us) to emerge from the primordial stews, or was there some help – guidance if you will – from the future, from where we will end up, allowing for an overall purpose and direction in history. Such a view – the importance of observation – is consistent with the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Physics.

Unfortunately the two thousand year-long  dominance of Plato and Aristotle, two of the greatest skyhookers who ever thought, who were blind to the virtues of evolution, of trade, of self-organization, of growth and development, biased the intellectual life of the West to static thought, to anti-mercantile attitudes, and to the idea of immutable characters and essences. Aquinas’ adoption of Aristotle in the 12th century, and his acceptance by the Church as official orthodoxy, kept Skyhooker attitudes firmly entrenched in the core of official Christianity. It took a Reformation and a scientific revolution to loosen the links between Christianity and Aristotle. It now asserts that faith in Skyhooks is just that, faith, and if you do not believe in the Great Skyhook, you have not understood the Gospels properly.

The Up-from-Belows started out small but in the last few centuries have grown to dominate the game. First it was Epicurus, then Lucretius who set Epicurus’ thought to one long poem, and the near miraculous finding of a lost text of Lucretius in a German monastery at the time of the Renaissance. Lucretius is the first exposition of a materialist world of self-organizing atoms without the need for gods to explain anything. No wonder the Platonists were not anxious to preserve it. Later came Adam Smith, David Hume, Darwin, Friedrich Hayek, economists, and other proponents of the self-organizing capacities of nature and man. Atheists are, in general, up-from-belows, but many proponents of the Skyhook tradition also acknowledge the reality and importance of the self-organizing features of nature, which includes human beings.

Now Skyhook is a term of derision, like Puritan, Tory, Quaker, Whig, Protestant, Grit. The Skyhookers think that the entire universe has been brought into existence by a Mind, and that it is pervaded or organized by something like thought, and that behind the appearances is a Big Thinker, who has brought reality into being. Not just quarks and leptons, the strong force and the weak force, electromagnetism and gravity, but mind itself. They point out that mind is a feature of this universe that has to be explained.

Other skyhookers think that minds in the future are, by the force of their observations in the future, bringing into existence a state of affairs conducive to life, consciousness and intelligence. This view was the basis of the recent science fiction movie, Interstellar.

The Up-from-belows, when they wade into cosmology, get into trouble with mind. Their views are frequently materialist, and their ideas of matter are seen, by Skyhookers, as constricting limitations of the largest kinds on whatever could be real.  Daniel Dennett is a prominent example. Extreme materialists end up denying the existence of mind, or denying the particular appearance of qualities (known to the trade as qualia). If everything is self-organizing matter, and we know that matter is dead – so to speak – then mind is found in brains, and dies with brains. Brain generates mind, and not the other way around. This conclusion is an undiscussable reality for the extreme materialist.

The Sky-hookers say that Mind is a feature of this universe that needs explanation, and they rely on the Benign Designer God as their Super Turtle, the explanation that stops the need for an infinite regress of explanations. The Universe rests on the back of an Elephant, and the Elephant stands on the back of a Turtle, and either it’s turtles all the way down (infinite regress), or a Super Turtle ends the regression. That is what I mean by a Super Turtle.

Many Up-from-belows say that the question is absurd: we are here by fluke. Others say that we live in a multiverse, and in this world of infinite possibilities, we just happen to live in the world that generated minds to observe it. So they offer the same explanation as the flukers, only disguise it under the multiplication of universes. Many up-from-belows  disparage the idea of  an Intellgient Designer, but hold that physical laws are Platonic abstractions that exists outside of time and space.  Designer God, fluke, multiverse, the immutable Laws of Nature which exists outside human influence: each is a Super Turtle. The whole issue is explored entertainingly and well by Paul Davies in the Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life?

Just because the Up-from-belows wander into conceptual and metaphysical difficulties when they ponder the origin of everything, and the nature of mind, does not mean that they are wrong about how  human institutions have evolved.

Thinkers as different as Darwin and Hayek are in the Up-from-Below camp. It is frequently amazing to me that people who celebrate the process of biological discovery called evolution tend to be squeamish about the process of price and product discovery called capitalism.

The basic idea is that humans create order without thinking about it, and that order causes changes in us, as we adapt to it and develop social customs that allow for greater wealth creation and more complex societies. Such an idea infuses thinkers like Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek. In fact Charles Darwin is known to have thoroughly read Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations when he was in university.



This has to be the most long-winded introduction to a wonderful book by Matt Ridley, the Evolution of Everything. I strongly recommend it.

Ridley engages in a thorough exploration that evolution applies to everything: religions, moralities, biology, technology, languages, laws: a complete bottom-up self-organizing explanation of everything.I do not find it necessary to agree with every argument of a writer, especially when they are engaged in a serious romp through vast reaches of important subject matters. For a splendid stimulation of your mind, even as you may argue with it as you read, Ridley’s book makes a great Christmas gift.

He is not the kind of writer who obliges you to agree with him on pain of being cast into outer darkness.

If you google this book, ignore especially the Guardian’s mean spirited assassination attempt. Kirkus Reviews discusses the actual ideas of Ridley fairly.


Sabotage as normal bureaucratic behaviour




A declassified CIA document called “Simple Sabotage” makes fascinating reading. It is impossible to discern what differentiates sabotage, as a deliberate ploy to slow down production,  from everyday behaviour typical inside a bureaucracy. Just think of Wally in Dilbert, and see how many characteristics of Wally are found below. Or if you work in government or a large private company,  download and widely distribute the CIA handbook on “Simple Sabotage” to your co-workers. See if anyone recognizes themselves. See if you can spot your own behaviour. Are you a saboteur?

Simple sbotage does not require specially prepared tools or equipment; it is executed by an ordinary citizen who may or may not act individually and without the necessity for active connection with an organized group; and it is carried out in such a way as to involve a minimum danger of injury, detection, and reprisal.
Where destruction is involved, the weapons
of the citizen-saboteur are salt, nails, candles, pebbles, thread, or any other materials he might normally be expected to possess as a householder or as a worker in his particular occupation.His arsenal is the kitchen shelf, the trash pile, his own usual kit of tools and supplies. The targets of his
sabotage are usually objects to which he has normal and conspicuous access in everyday life.

The interesting thing is that acts of bureaucratic sabotage are indistinguishable from behaviour we would normally call “bureaucratic”.

(a) Organizations and Conferences
(1) Insist on doing everything through
“channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken
in order to expedite decisions.
(2) Make “speeches,” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length., Illustrate your”points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate “patriotic” comments.
(3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible, never less than five.
(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently
as possible.
(5) Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
(6)Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
(7) Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
(8) Be worried about the propriety of any  decision; raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated is within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.
(b) Managers and Supervisors
(1) Demand written orders.
(2) “Misunderstand”  orders. Ask endless
questions or engage in long correspondence
about such orders. Quibble over them when you
(3) Do everything possible to delay -the
delivery of orders. Even though parts of an order
may be ready beforehand, don’t deliver it until
it is completely ready.
(4) Don’t order new working’ materials until your current stocks have been virtually exhausted, so that the slightest delay in filling your order will mean a shutdown.
(5) Order high-quality materials which are
hard to get. If you don’t get them argue about
it. Warn that inferior materials will mean inferior work.
(6) In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that the important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers of poor machines.
(7) Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw. Approve other defective parts whose flaws are not visible to the naked eye.
(8) Make mistakes in routing so that parts
and materials will be sent to the wrong place in
the plant.
(9) When training new workers, give incomplete or misleading instructions.
(10) To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work.
(11) Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
(12) Multiply paper work in plausible ways.
Start duplicate files.
(13) Multiply the procedures and clearances
involved in issuing instructions, pay checks, and
so on. See that three people have to approve
everything where one would do..
(14) Apply all regulations to the last letter.
(c) Office Workers
(1) Make mistakes in quantities of material
when you’ are copying orders. Confuse similar
names. Use wrong addresses.
(2) Prolong correspondence with government bureaus.
(3) Misfile essential documents.
(4) In making carbon copies, make one too
few, so that an extra copying job will have to
be done.
(5) Tell important callers the boss is busy
or talking on another telephone.
(6) Hold up mail until the next collection.
(7)Spread disturbing rumors that sound
like inside dope.
(d) Employees
(1)Work slowly.Think out ways to increase the number of movements necessary on your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one, try to make a small wrench do when a big one is necessary, use little force where considerable force is needed, and so on.
(2) Contrive as many interruptions to your
work as you can: when changing the material
on which you are working, as you would on a
lathe or punch, take needless time to do it. If
you are cutting, shaping or doing other measured work, measure dimensions -twice as often
as you need to. When you go to the lavatory,
spend a longer time there than is necessary.
Forget tools so that you will have to go back after them.
(3) Even it you understand the language,
pretend not to understand instructions in a
foreign tongue.
(4) Pretend that instructions are hard to understand, and ask to have them repeated more than once. Or pretend that you are particularly anxious to do your work, and pester the foreman with unnecessary questions.
(5) Do your work poorly and blame it on
bad tools, machinery, or equipment. Complain
that these things are preventing you from doing
your job right.
(6) Never pass on your skill and experience
to a new or less skillful worker.
(7)  Snarl up administration in every possible way. Fill out forms illegibly so, that they will have to be done over; make mistakes or omit requested information in forms.
(8) If possible, join or help organize a group
for presenting employee problems to the management. See that the procedures adopted are
as inconvenient as possible for the management,
involving the presence of a large number of
employees at each presentation, entailing more
than one meeting for each grievance, bringing
up problems which are largely imaginary, and
so on.
(9) Misroute materials.
(10) Mix good parts with unusable scrap and
rejected parts.
General Devices for Lowering Morale and Creating Confusion
(a) Give lengthy and incomprehensible explanations when questioned.

(b). Report imaginary spies or danger to the Gestapo or police.

(c) Act stupid.

(d) Be as irritable and, quarrelsome as possible.
without getting yourself into trouble.
wally on productivity


Try to encompass the scale of the planetary catastrophe that was the Devonian extinction. An area in Siberia the size of continental United States was flooded with molten basalt, up to several thousand feet thick, exuding sulfur dioxide, which turns into sulfuric acid. Species died over the course of a hundred thousand years.

And you are worried about a warming of a couple of degrees centigrade in a century, after a mini-ice age?

Perhaps the laziest blog posting ever, and the most complete

Day by day pontificating on the Greek crisis, the black American underclass crisis, the non existent global warming crisis, Islam, Putin, Obama, the Democrats, the Republicans, the Grits, the Tories, IQ differences among races, automation, modernity and every sort of ephemeral dispute: let me summarize.

Check how many propositions you agree with below. Send me your scores and how you counted.

1. Global warming

a) not happening, as it appears from evidence

b) solar radiation and the amount received by the planet earth drives most of the climate,most of the time.

2. Anthropogenic global warming (AGW)

a) could be happening but is not, see 1 above

b) could be happening but it is too expensive to address it directly, compared to other highly soluble environmental and social problems.

3. Anthropogenic global warming craze

a) a delusional belief system, akin to the cholesterol panic, with a roughly sixty year cycle from invention through inflation to evanescence.

4. The Pope and his recent support for AGW

a) traditional catholic anti-capitalism dressed up in new clothes

5. Taking down the confederate flag in South Carolina

a) about time. The US Civil War was about the enslavement of blacks. I do not approve of slavery, slave owners, or blaming personal or collective failures on the heritage of slavery.

6. American blacks

a) according to US Department of Justice statistics, a white person is 67 times more likely to be attacked by a black person than a black person is likely to be attacked by a white person. Handle with caution.

7. Racial differences in  IQ

a) quite real and possibly genetic in origin,  and susceptible to improvement by the imposition of academic standards.

b) the imposition of academic standards is highly difficult in times of raging desire for equality of outcomes.

8. Islam

a) a totalitarian political ideology dressed up as a religion

b) in the main, a complete waste of time, Civilizations that succumb to it have succumbed to a complete failure to advance socially, materially, or spiritually.

9. Materialism

a) a gigantic limiting assumption on whatever could be real.

b) the predominant intellectual fashion of our age.

c) To my mind, completely refuted by split screen experiments and the confirmation of the mind’s influence on the outcome of split screen experiments.

10. God

a) some kind of superintending and creative intelligence is, in this view, highly likely.

b) by definition, not subject to scientific refutation or support (if it is in the domain of material reality, it is not God)

11. Mind

a) likely to exist apart from its material substrates, such as brains.

b) intimately related in normal conditions to awareness, intention, emotion, and other states of mind.

12. Inequality

a) there is too much emphasis in contemporary on the evil consequences of inequality and too little emphasis on the degree to which inequalities are natural.

b) All men are equal, and all men are unequal, and any society that tries to suppress the truth of either proposition will end in violence.

13. The sexual revolution

a) we are heading rapidly back into a pagan attitude to sexuality. Pauline Christian ideas about with whom to have sex, in what legal constraints, and in what orifice are going out the window.

b) I am ambivalent about it, but I enjoy the changes so far as they have affected me.

c) The state has successfully substituted itself for the ancient ties of family and community, and this with immense popular support in all democracies. Most people in advanced cultures trust the state more than they trust their cousins.

14. Change

a) It is likely that 50% of the ideas expressed here will be repudiated in the next century.

b) which 50% – or larger – is impossible to determine

15. Fossil fuels

a) the advances of wealth, and with wealth, tolerance and the ability for self-expression, that have been made since 1800 are primarily the outcome of increased amounts of energy available to each person on the planet.

b) that increase of wealth is largely the result of burning fossil fuels.

c) Wind and solar energy sources should be pursued up to the limits imposed by physics and the costs of production, and no further. Large scale substitution of wind and solar for fossil fuel energy is demonstrably uneconomic and anti-ecological.

16. On male and female

a) while the Scientific Revolution of the last two centuries derives from other sources than male/female intelligence differences, it is males whose minds, procedures, and cooperation  have generated nearly the totality of scientific and technical progress in that time.

17. On science

a) science as we understand the term has proceeded from a confidence in the intelligibility of the universe as the creation of a rational God, and not otherwise.

b) Chinese, Indian and Arabic civilizations did not develop science for reasons particular to each of those civilizations and cultures. They discovered knowledge in various ways, but not in the rigorous exploration of the boundaries of what is known, and in the organized procedures of intellectual challenge, free from physical violence and the suppression of inquiry by religious authorities, that characterize most other civilizations and cultures, and which threaten ours.


a) A half-black Woodrow Wilson, an academic, brought up by white Lefties, an ungifted politician, not half as smart as he thinks he is, who rode the wave of being “black”, which he is not, into power. Never bought into him, never was disappointed, never was impressed.

b) His appointment of the racist anti-white Eric Holder as Attorney General, has legitimized, and augmented, a general anti-whitism in the public discourse. White people have not yet shown signs they are collectively fed up with it.

19. The Left

a) is premised on the notion that society is wrongly constituted, that they know what is wrong, that their analysis is perfect, and that what is wrong can be cured by social, political, or economic measures, which act as external constraints on behaviour, not inward changes in man.

b) At their worst, a Godless bunch of destroyers who have been unleashed on our churches, schools and universities, and have destroyed them. By Godless I mean not merely atheistical, but narrowly and stupidly materialistic.

c) They are totally in denial about their destructive impulses and effects, and firmly believe they are morally superior to any opposition, though they deny the basis of morality in any supernatural, metaphysical basis.

d) lacking a metaphysical basis of agreement among themselves, or confidence in the constitution of material reality to cause things to turn out right, they turn politics into a series of tests of agreement on increasingly ridiculous propositions, disagreement with which is cause for expulsion, derision, calumny, and, in the extreme, death.

e) the belief in the rationality of their analysis of  the world ends in irrational politics, and the celebration of that irrationality.

20. Conservatism

a) A strong distrust of the perfectibility of man.

b) The deep suspicion that one could be wrong about many large, important things.

c) the confidence to argue for what you believe, despite a and b above.

d) A deep distaste for persecuting hypocrites, and for persecutions in general.

e) a confidence in the saving power of Jesus Christ – whatever that may mean.

f) The confidence that somehow, against many odds, and multiple sources of error, sin, passion, ignorance, and ideology, that  the human species, and not just its its living conditions, is getting better.


Materialists, feminists, lefties, Muslims, progressives, slave holders, Confederates, and Obamanauts can vie to see who among them is the most offended.

The rest of us can get on with life, knowing that someone sane is out there.





Summer soundscape

It starts with a very low throb. The sound is apprehended about fifteen miles off in the early hours,  around one or two o’clock in the morning, and you smile to yourself as once again you have lived another year to hear it. The windows are open, the breeze has died down. Even the insects are quiet.

You can imitate the sound yourself: place your lower lip against your upper lip and let a series of breaths escape as you make sound in your throat – “hwa-hwa-hwa-hwa-hwa”. It is throb of distant diesel engines pulling a freight train. Three or four engines, a hundred cars.

It is a big one, pulling out of the east, bypassing Sherbrooke and heading up towards the pass at Mount Orford, climbing. The engine throb intensifies as the train gains height and speed. Faster throbbing: “hwa-hwa-hwa-hwa-hwa”, as fast as you can make the sound, then faster than you can make the sound. The engines are really working now, pulling a 100 boxcars, flat cars, tank cars, all the goods that landed at Halifax a few days ago are being pulled to central Canada.

As I lie in my bed, the sound is moving from my left ear, which hears best to the east, then around the north side of the house, and moves over the space of five or ten minutes to the west window. The engines are working hard. Now the locomotive’s horn blasts four times, one long, one short, a pause, and two more short blasts, as it passes roads from Rock Forest to Magog. The cycle is repeated four times: four level crossings.

In the immensity of the diesels throbbing, a new sound is heard: the clickety-clickety-clickety-clickety of the actual wheels on the steel rails, hundreds of them, coming in at a much higher frequency, overtopping the diesel engines and gradually becoming more prominent. Throbbing engines, horn blasts, clicking wheels, but still five miles away at their closest, not loud, but audible to those who listen, the sound of a railway in the summer.

The train turns west to go through the pass at Mount Orford, and just as gradually as the throbbing first appeared, it fades out. Elapsed time, maybe ten minutes. A pure soundscape has played out in your mind. You supply the visuals. Maybe you imagine the sight of a hundred railcars thundering through one of those level crossings, with the signal lights blinking and the ding ding ding of the bells working, which you cannot hear over the noise of the train.

I think of the amazing fact that, as we sleep, enormous trains are pulling goods from one end of the country to the other, goods that end up in Canadian Tire and Sears, goods that end up in machine shops where computer controlled shaping machinery folds metal into car bodies, or oranges and tangerines and olive oil end up in your food shelves. I hear that sound of the Halifax freight train in summer, and sometimes if the atmospheric conditions are right, in winter through the walls and closed windows of my cabin, and I think, some things are very right in the world.