Buzzword Books - unusual, intriguing, intelligent, perceptive

Here, you'll find musings from our authors and staff. We don't promise daily updates. Just posts worth your time.

Monday, 9 January 2023

RHAPSODY ON A MONORHYME

Clint Smith, not to be outdone by Martin Jensen's recent parody of immortal verse, contributes this anomaly - an ingenious piece of doggerel with a single rhyme. It's titled SUMMERY.

 

Fluttering fronds in baking glare.
Mindless insects drill the air.
Panting dog with shedding hair.
Sprinkler spurting everywhere.
Sips of warm vin ordinaire.
Melting slice of Camembert.
Basking boy with stupid stare,
Dandruff in his matted hair.
Bawling baby, bottom bare,
Powder on its derriere.
Lurking leech on garden chair
Crawls inside Mum’s underwear.
Daughter, tragic, doctrinaire,
Raves that life is plain unfair.
Grandad, senile, unaware,
Bowels and brain in disrepair,
Soils himself and starts to swear.
No one wants to help or care.
Which incites me to declare:
None but the brave observes despair.

 

Sunday, 16 October 2022

COLERIDGE REVISITED

Our resident humorist, Martin Jensen contributes this bon mot:

I don't write verse but, on reading a biography of Coleridge before bed, I dozed and later awoke from an opium-induced slumber with these few, immortal, pellucid lines of apt alliteration etched in my brain:

 

In Malibu

Did Lucy-lu

A perky palindrome review

While Alf, her hapless handiman

Resprayed her rusted caravan

Then reinforced her ottoman  

And fixed a faulty flue.

 

Thank you!
Thank you very much! 

Saturday, 3 September 2022

POPULATION - THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

Gina Stoner ventilates the taboo subject of eponential population growth:

Despite world population increasing fourfold in the last 100 years - what used to be termed exponential growth — the fact is never mentioned. In fact, the media's careful exclusion of this topic smells more of conspiracy than neglect.
    Everything else is on the table.
    Climate change, yes.
    Pollution, yes.
    Lack of biodiversity and extinctions of species, yes.
    Lack of recourses, yes.
    Decimation of forests, wetlands, wilderness areas, yes.
    But when it comes to addressing the root cause of these problems, governments, corporations, the media, the woke establishment and the plethora of fanatical do-gooders are astonishingly coy about the topic, let alone economical with the truth.
    Corporations don’t want population mentioned because they require more units of consumption. Governments don’t want it mentioned because they are funded and lobbied by corporations. So they permit more economic refugees, fund more child-care centres, tolerate women who refuse to work and have children to live off the benefits.
    Even authoritarian states refuse to sterilize their populations. China is allegedly applying it to their Moslem inhabitants, but this is a strategic culling, not a comprehensive campaign.
    And while we cut down the Amazon, burn forests in Java, fill turtles with plastic waste, decimate the habitats of rhinos, tigers, elephants… world population increases at 2.6 people each second.
    Although 60 million of us die each year, 140 million are born. Half of all people to exist on this minuscule planet have arrived in the last 2000 years.
    In the 1700s, the human population was 600 million.
    In 2020 it was 7.8 billion.
    It is now growing at a rate of 83 million a year.
    Yes, we bleat about climate change (the euphemism for global warming — a term that proved too difficult to prove). But we never mention the cause. That there are now so many of us polluting the planet that when all competing species are eaten we may be reduced to consuming ourselves.
    In medieval times, the population was curbed by wars, famine, plagues and limited medical knowledge. But we have become adept at self-preservation and these restrictions are no longer enough.
    As we can't be cured or even culled, the only hope is that Atlas will shrug.
    Eventually, things will revert. If the bugs don't get us, or nuclear winter, something else will knock us off. In the vast timeline of the planet, humanity is just a spark. We will go the way of the dinosaurs and another of natures experiments will begin.


You can read Gina's inspirational book, TALKS WITH AL, on Buzzword.

Saturday, 30 April 2022

THE MAN WITH NO PLAN

 Read this short story by John Alexandra, and despair!

 

For a moment, he came alive. He knew nothing but the chill of his skin and the life and death of his breath.
    He breathed in and took life from air. He breathed out and everything stopped. Thought. Expectations. Hope. Ambition. Fear. Regrets. He breathed out into nothingness, nothing. Died to himself and became.
    Each outbreath drove a gossamer energy through his body. Chest. Gut. Legs. He let it flow. And presently there came warmth - like a fire in the belly, which he saw with an inner look.
    It drew him, soothed, solaced, fed.
    Then he found he wanted nothing - just to remain with the warmth. The cosmic calm, renewed with every breath.
    But soon he was distracted. By thought. Reactions. Moods. And forgot about it. Forgot his birthright in a trice. Identified again with outer life. The primal bliss, discarded, drained away.
    He no longer lived, felt alive.
    He became a series of reactions. The mediocrity he found comfort in. The familiar fog of existing that deadened perception. Effortless. Automatic. Disguised as progress, competence, activity.
    Again he sleepwalked through his life - a well-dressed, responsible zombie.
    That night, in bed, he reviewed his day. And saw that, although everything was done well enough, he was absent from the process - never 'there'. He did not remember locking the door when he went out, where he put his keys, his glasses. Whether he'd turned off the stove. Yet he locked the door, found his glasses and keys and turned the stove properly off. But it was done in a dream. There was no attention at all. He acted from habit, automatically. He did not exist as it was done.
    He determined, next day, to be attentive. He made a plan. He'd start off with a simple task. He'd be mindful each time he touched a switch.
    As he drank his coffee next morning, he remembered he'd switched on the electric jug but while he switched it on, he was occupied with a program on the radio - the radio he'd switched on before he'd switched on the jug. The radio he'd been listening to at the time he shaved. Then he recalled that he'd also switched on his electric shaver.
    So, before he left for work, he decided to switch on something intentionally. He switched the hall light on and off, trying to be aware that he was doing it. For an instant, life became more vivid. As though everything stopped and presence flowed.
    Then he started his car automatically and switched the radio on in the same way.
    In bed that night, when he recalled it, he realized that he was a reaction to events - a person in a waking dream.      
    Then he forgot his plan, his good intentions, for weeks.
    But he functioned well enough. Everything got done. Inattentive he might be but it was the comfortable way to exist. A dull, familiar drifting that required no effort at all.
    And soon his resolve to wake up became just a waking dream. Another thought.

Tuesday, 8 February 2022

DO WE EXIST?


Here is the fourth chapter of John Alexandra's forthcoming book:

If reality is really within us, it must be cleverly hidden.

It is.

And if we wish to 'look in' or 'know ourselves' and find it, we first need to be here.

So, are we?

We believe we are always the same. After all, we have the same name and body. We are educated people aren't we, with rounded personalities and distinct interests, inclinations, opinions...?

No.

David Hume put it clearly: 'For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself I always stumble on some perception or other of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never catch myself at any time without a perception.' He said that we are, 'nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with inconceivable rapidity, and are in perpetual flux and movement.'

This implies that we are not entities that respond to events but a series of reactions. Our thoughts, emotions and physical tensions are merely reactions to life.

There is a Tibetan parable that compares us to a committee with a succession of individuals standing up and claiming to be 'I'. Each thought, emotion, sensation tells us it is 'I' and what to do, until shouted down by the next. We have innumerable 'I's. And this dispersion runs our lives.

Education, religion, caste or class systems and tradition create pressure-groups of 'I's. This process is completely random and an enormous waste of energy.

Buddha said, 'That which is called a man is perpetual transformation.' This equates with the Biblical statement: 'Man's name is legion.'

As the Dhammapada puts it:  'Consider this body! A painted puppet with jointed limbs, sometimes suffering and covered with ulcers, full of imaginings, never permanent, ever changing.'

And Plutarch: '...each one of us is made up of ten thousand different and successive states, a scrap-heap of units, a mob of individuals.'

There's no unity or 'self' behind this process at all.

We're puppets.

This is the most objectionable thing anyone can hear. But until we know we are marionettes we have no hope of understanding anything.

Portrait of Mr Mediocre: He has the standard motivations — sex, status and security. He is interested in physical comfort, enjoyment, the easy way out. He does not want his opinions questioned, does not want to be disturbed. His self-defence is a balancing-act called self-affirmation.

He's full of hopes, ambitions, dreams. Of opinions, resentments, envy. Of vanity, negativity, rage. Of anxiety, lies and humbug. He has thousands of false ideas and concepts, chiefly about himself, and nurtures his self-pity which he loves.

He is selfish, competitive, possessive and wants to be 'seen of men' — wants a bigger salary, a more impressive house, a smarter car. Not that what he owns is the problem. (Possessions aren't the problem but the possessor.)

As he ages and suffers his quota of disappointments and defeats, he becomes progressively more fearful and depressed because circumstances refuse to grant him what he is certain he deserves.

            This self-satisfied sentimental hypocrite is readily insulted, soaks up flattery, justifies himself in everything and sees all setbacks as personal affronts. Even a late train or bad weather can make him irritable all day.

            He is obsequious to his boss, orders his family around at home but is meek with his mistress whom he fears. He's pious in church but kicks the dog and is furious if criticised. In short, he's a different person each moment and the slave of every situation. He is born crying, lives complaining and dies disappointed.

            Not that he's 'bad' or in any way unusual. He dresses well, wears a nice tie and is your neighbour, husband or good friend. But a flash of anger or other negativity, or an hour of daydreaming or physical tension can destroy all the energy he's received from his previous night's sleep.

Perhaps you can remember a time when you were insulted, ignored, rejected — a time when you felt the resentment of having your precious self demeaned. Can you recall that emotional storm and how it left you drained?

            Now scale that down to the lifetime of minor irritations, disappointments, regrets and smouldering antagonisms that siphon off the substance of your life.

            A loud noise... Overeating... A tense face... Everything takes your attention and fritters your energy away.

            Even reading this is sapping your substance — life energy. It costs you something. Do you feel that slight inner drain?

            So, you are not just completely inconsistent but leak energy like a sieve.

            We believe we have free will but say, 'I can't get that tune out of my head.' Or, 'How dare he treat me like that?'

            We say, 'I love you.' But what in us can possibly love? Today's reaction loves. And in the next half-hour or next breath, perhaps a flash of jealousy hates.

            Although we contradict ourselves in everything we do, the last thing we wish to hear is that we're the pawn of everything inside and outside us.

            As the practical psychologist, Ouspensky, said, 'Observe yourself very closely and you will see that not you but it speaks within you, moves, feels, laughs and cries in you, just as it rains, clears up and rains again outside you. Everything happens in you.'

            He goes on: 'If we begin to study ourselves we first of all come up against one word which we use more than any other and that is the word 'I'. We say, "I am doing", "I am sitting", "I feel", "I like", "I dislike", and so on. This is our chief illusion. For the principal mistake we make about ourselves is that we consider ourselves one. We always speak about ourselves as "I" and we suppose that we refer to the same thing all the time when we are actually divided into hundreds and hundreds of different "I"'s. At one moment when I say "I", one part of me is speaking, and at another moment when I say "I", it is quite another "I" speaking. We do not know that we have not one "I" but many different "I"s, connected with our feelings and desires, and have no controlling "I". These "I"s change all the time. One suppresses another, one replaces another, and all this struggle makes up our inner life.'

            You, in other words, are a function and not present to yourself at all.

            What does this mean?

            It means that you have never observed your inner dispersion for one moment.

            Worse.

            It means you merely have a vague waking consciousness. You are never truly 'here'. And it's not just you. Everyone around you exists in a state of waking sleep. In this state, we can do nothing. It all happens. We don't love, hate, desire. It happens. Wars. Revolutions. They all happen. All our deeds, actions, words, thoughts, feelings, convictions, habits are the result of external influences and impressions. So, everything goes in the only way it can go.

            It's as if we are hypnotized.

            Zombies.

            We sleepwalk through our lives.

 

            We have said that nature is not our friend, but still cherish the quixotic notion that we live in a well-meaning world. We believe we understand nature, forgetting that we are part of it. Can the part comprehend the whole when it doesn’t even understand itself? We are symptoms, not the cause.

Apparently, nature needs sleeping people. There is an Eastern tale about a rich magician who had a great many sheep. The sheep wandered into the forest or ran away because they knew that the magician wanted their flesh and skins. So, the magician hypnotised them — told them that they were immortal and would not be harmed when they were skinned. That he loved them and if anything bad was to happen to them, it wouldn't be that day. He told them they weren’t sheep at all. He told some that they were eagles, lions or magicians. The sheep were soothed and never strayed again. They waited obediently till he slaughtered them. 

We are sheep!

And need to be.

Otherwise the system doesn't work.

We are asleep. And everything, including the cosmos, conspires to keeps us snoring. We are reactive, hoodwinked, helpless, conceited, posturing mechanisms.

Slaves.

Used ─ then massacred by millions.

We know nothing. Can do nothing.

We are 'done'.

As individuals, we don't exist! Yet some of us have the temerity to think that this bundle of exploding rat traps that we fondly label 'ourselves' merits life after death or immortality!

How can something that is not stable for one second survive the shock of death? And what would be the point?

As for fathoming the cosmos — forget it.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

HOME ECONOMICS

Martin Jensen - author of How to Keep Fit Without Exercise and How To Get What You Want ruefully examines the current plight of middle class Australians.

 

You are the average, middle-class Aussie husband married with two kids. You earn $80,000 per year. Perhaps $100,000 if you are fortunate. A princely sum ten years ago but now the average wage. Still, on the face of it, you're much better off than some.

Deduct the mortgage and insurance, kid's schooling or school expenses, rates, taxes, repairs, payments to plumbers, electricians, lawyers, tax agents, computer geeks. Plus medical expenses: dentist, orthodontist, optometrist, physio, podiatrist...

And then there's the cost of getting around. Car registration, petrol, road tolls. NRMA, tyres, batteries, servicing…

And don’t forget groceries, chemist, shoes, clothing, gym subscription, birthday presents, holiday expenses, motels, restaurants, entry fees to exhibitions, and that child in Kenya or fire-damaged Koala your wife has been conned into paying XX dollars a week to support, although everyone knows that she is funding more expensive commercials to make the organizers rich.

Then there's planned obsolescence. The fridge, washing machine, clothes dryer, stove, hot water system, mower, hedge trimmer, heaters, aircon, vacuum cleaner and hot blanket will fail at factory specified intervals.

Forget expensive hobbies. Sky-diving will have to wait. Tennis lessons for the kiddies have to be put on hold. Forget the caravan and jet ski, the opera subscription and scuba gear. And you'd better quit coffin-nails or thousands more dollars go up in smoke. 

So it's important that no one in your family becomes seriously ill, develops psychological problems, is involved in car smashes, falls off a ladder or otherwise injures themselves. Because that initial $80,000 has now been spent several times over and you are looking at a second mortgage on the house. Or, God help us, slinking in to a payday lender!

They say freedom is when the wife's divorced you, the kids have left home and the dog's died. But not financial freedom. You've married someone you now hate, given her half the house plus landed yourself with a maintenance burden that will possibly sink you. And next you're supporting two families. No, there's no way out.

Is there a moral to this story? Yup.

Being born is our first mistake.

 

You can source Martin's books on Buzzword.




 
 

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

WHAT DO WE BELIEVE?

 Here is the third chapter of John Alexandra's book:

 

What do we believe? Generally, just about anything we're told.

We can fervently believe any piffle, poppycock and balderdash. 

We can believe in atheism, spiritualism, cargo cults ─ in literal interpretations of the devil, heaven, hell. We can believe that God is on the side of our armies, that he notes the sparrow's fall, that human sacrifices placate him, that killing infidels is his wish.

Once we believed that the sun moved around the earth and that we were the centre of everything. 

In 1492, clerics believed that an all-loving, all-forgiving God hated heretics. So, they stretched them on the rack or burned them at the stake. 

Today, Muslim martyrs wearing bomb-belts believe that, if they incinerate a crowd of non-believers, they'll go to paradise and be pursued by 72 concupiscent virgins. 

But even fanatics can't believe in a purposeless universe and still believe in 'God'.
When science dumped understanding for knowledge, it sabotaged religion. And when religion abandoned insight for belief, it became equally uninviting. Science can't see the wood for the trees and religion can't see the trees for the wood. So, both now inhabit a wasteland of blowing paper and dried bones. 

It wasn’t always this way. 

Long before the Dark Ages, the knowledgeable ones were, at once, priests, scientists, alchemists, natural historians and philosophers. Whatever we now think of their notions, their search was integrated by the striving for a single world view. 

In ancient Egypt, Greece, India and medieval Europe, science was an aspect of religion and psychology — and remained an integrated study even as late as the 1500's.

For instance, Descartes, was an engineer as well as a philosopher. He studied optics and analytical geometry. He formulated the First Law of Motion before Newton did and repudiated magnetism, gravity and action at a distance. He thought that inertia made bodies persist not in a circular but a straight motion and that planetary orbits were the result of vortices in ether. He reduced the world to particles whose only reality was extension in space and motion in space and time — a sally at physics that so pleased him that he hoped to complete it entirely by himself. As a philosopher, he believed that the idea of god implied his existence. Today, despite his flawed assumptions, we would call him a Renaissance Man.

The Cartesians (those with notions deriving from Descartes) saw animals as machines. They believed that the human animal, however, was fitted with an appendage called mind. And that God was still around somehow, tacked onto the system.

Then Newton worked out that planetary orbits were governed by gravity and centrifugal force. His billiard-ball universe was accurate enough to be a benchmark for 200 years. His Laws of Inertia, Acceleration, Reciprocal Action et al banished mystery from the cosmos. But he was still unable to account for the precise movement of the planets. So, he considered God a corrective force guiding the worlds. He was, in fact, a Deist — believed that a divine mechanic governed the machine. 

Darwin, who wrote The Origin of Species was also vexed by a meddlesome god. In 1860, in a letter to Asa Gay,  he wrote, 'I cannot think that the world as we see it is a matter of chance, and yet I cannot look at each separate thing as the result of design. ...I am, and shall ever remain, in a hopeless muddle.' The whole point of his thesis was that variations were not directed. In a letter to Hooker in 1856, he cited, 'the clumsy, wasteful, low and horribly cruel works of nature.'

Although Darwin hardly used the term 'evolution', the dumbed-down popularisation of his theories has become the non-thinker's mind-worm — the vaunted 'theory of everything'. We now believe in progress, the continual advancement of knowledge, the progressive refinement of politics, conduct and social systems. Even though bald evidence shows the futility of these views.
Take progress, for instance. Are things really developing, getting better, or merely becoming more complex? Every innovation creates six more insoluble problems. Technical advances are matched by an increase in generalised stupidities. Such as the scores of SSBNs (Ballistic Missile Submarines) lurking in every ocean, ready to vaporise the world's cities. 

As for the advent of social media, the internet and instant communication, its data gathering and manipulation is deeply destructive. It creates multiple problems such as identification and information theft, scams, bullying, fake news, propaganda, and increasing slavery to IT technology. And incites an abnormal world-wide reaction to a single local stimulus. 

Everything is designed to be engaging, to grab and keep our attention — to commodify our love of gossip, sensationalism and hyperbole. To waste our time and dumb us down. To manufacture compulsion. The need to click produce an instant dopamine hit. If we engage with social media for ten minutes, our oxytocin level soars. 

At last count, forty-eight countries have at least one government agency engaged in placing blatant falsehoods on social media and engineering consent and dissent. Shady media outlets on corporate payrolls fabricate doubt, disorientation and distraction. They control information through the censorship of outlet-swamping or 'noise'. This promotion of mistrust, fear, disinformation designed to manipulate thought and behaviour is now a profitable market using the methods of advertising and PR. The appeal is emotional, compulsive, addictive and amplifies negative traits. Advertising, of course, is propaganda. Not truth but hype.

This destructive digital gully-trap promotes conspiracy theories, outlandish claims, deep fakes, confusing 'facts' and fiction. The constant bombardment of tainted 'leaks' makes us question the validity of all media. 

With the internet now manipulated by pressure groups, multinationals and state autocrats, the upshot is social divisiveness and public chaos. Monopolies such as Facebook and Twitter pay lip service to removing tainted accounts, but are acutely aware that this cramps their bottom lines. So, as long as gathering subscribers is their business model, malicious actors will continue to thrive.

Meanwhile adolescent girls are given the chance of indirect aggression, the ability to shame and belittle with 'who's in, who's out rants. Adolescent boys are fed first-person war games that have been found by psychologists to promote callous indifference.

Everywhere you see agitated, self-promoting zombies shackled to their cell phones, compulsively micro-managing their profiles. Long before such technology was invented, Reich was already talking about, 'Compulsive, contactless sociability.'

The 'evolution' mind-worm also prompts us to believe that life started from inorganic matter, or arose spontaneously from amino acids in the oceans of the primitive earth. This assumption fits a barren cosmos devoid of sagacity or purpose because it negates all semblance of design. It means our presence here is incidental and reduces us to sophisticated apes.

The materialist, Hobbes, prompted this comment from a complaining theist: 'The root of all atheism consists in making senseless matter the only existent thing.' 

Despite such protests, God is no longer 'needed on voyage'. Knowledge and reasoning are enough. We believe in appearances only and believe that life can be organized through science alone.

Scientists believe that the whole can be understood by examining its parts. Their method isolates things from their surroundings. It separates items that can be weighed, numbered and measured from things that can't. It works in stricture of useful abstractions and finds in these fragments no meaning or design. But the layman, believing the analysis inclusive, accepts that view automatically, no matter how much clerics argue that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. 

But can one really explain anything in terms of itself? Is it credible that nature created itself — was self-derived? That matter created matter? Can we, for instance, by dismantling a radio, extract the music and voices it emits? Or extract thoughts by dissecting the brain?

So, as the gap widened between science and religion, the inner and outer aspects of cosmology became progressively opposed.

As science began to learn more and more about less, the less it understood. But it knew enough to shred believers in benevolence from above. It reduced the hierarchy that had guided our values and equated religion to a childish fiction equivalent to Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. 

In a godless world, we became governed from below — by isolated objects, genes, atoms, blind laws of attraction, random forces... By an automated cosmos and closed system. Meaning became meaningless. 

Meanwhile, the remnant of religion, still convinced that 'design' required a vaguely anthropomorphic deity, closed its cage of thought in defence of its beliefs. 

Now, the literalists who still attend its temples are well-meaning people with conventional minds snared by self-comfort, establishment and routine. Or those having a bet each way. Or doing it for the kids. Or emotionally cathartic happy-clappers swaying to the rants of money-motivated 'prosperity theology' evangelists.

But beyond the churches, mosques and synagogues are still a reticent few who covertly believe that there is 'something out there'.

Is