It seems like there will always be a dichotomy between the efficiency and comfort of the city and the naturalness and beauty of the wilderness. We can't bring billions of city dwellers with their urban technology to the wilderness. While everyone should be at one with nature, they never will.
Thinking of this during a walk in the woods, I wrote:
The raven glides overhead, calling.
Not a creature stirs.
I wait in the forest solitude.
Suddenly I hear “chickadee-dee-dee.”
Life is stirring.
The frost melts in the warm sun.
The squirrels start chattering
the hummingbirds are darting
and the bees are buzzing.
But I must move on.
I’ve arrive in a jumble of noise
in the urban forest.
Does it invade your mind?
Or soften your fear of missing out?
Clatter, clatter, life is stirring!
The city is the enveloping hive
for the bee-like people
who come and go
gazing at their phones
far from the field and forest
Consuming ever more,
we can’t turn back.
We grasp for solutions
as populations struggle ever more
and the raven glides overhead, calling.
© 2018 Larry Kilham
To see all my poems go to my poetry page.
In the beginning
we came from Africa, dreaming,
traversing the savanna and desert,
imagining the bright light on the hill.
We migrated through the heartlands of Europe,
traversing the mountains and plains.
We settled down,
tending our animals and crops,
and our learned men invented science
ignited by the bright light on the hill.
They gave us energy and machines,
and the gods and kings were pleased.
We’ve walked on the powdery moon
and cured almost every ill
as we followed the bright light on the hill.
DNA and AI both threaten and glitter
as the populations roil and simmer.
and the gods and scientists began to slumber.
Ever more me-people buzz in their urban hives,
and curiosity and hope and imagination are dwindling.
Oh! The light is wavering! The dreams are fading!
And the rich become the refugees
escaping to another land,
and Nature will regain the upper hand.
(c) 2018 Larry Kilham
See all of Larry Kilham's poems on this site here.
In this era of rogue leaders, rogue nations, and rogue climate, where can we turn for respite? This led me to thinking:
UNDER THE TREES
I’m an explorer in a sylvan land
and see a distant shady grove.
A perfect gathering place,
comforting for its cooling shade.
What life has settled there?
Some people perhaps, picnicking on the grassy floor.
Or creatures scratching up winter food
and birds flocking for seeds and bugs.
I hear no sounds from here.
I want to visit but not disturb.
Listen! The birds are flocking here now.
Will you join me?
Come to the place of wonder and beauty
where the unplanned is the norm.
Where we can escape the media storms
and enjoy ourselves alone.
©2018 Larry Kilham
See all of Larry Kilham's poems on this site here.
The technology boom isn't over but we must focus on preserving our resources and nature. Sustainable growth is an oxymoron. We must stop eradicating nature's plants, animals, and other organisms. We must find an equilibrium with all species. An alternative lifestyle can be more fulfilling and satisfying. On a TV documentary, I saw a young woman biologist at remote, frozen, Lake Baikal in Siberia say living there gives her "Freedom and a sense of beauty." Do you get that from megacities?
I am gratified by the uniformly positive response my book The Perfectionist: Peter Kilham and the Birds has received. In going through the boxes of his papers, I came across an amateur off-the-air recording of my father interviewed by an NBC TV station around 1980. The image quality is technically poor, characteristic of the early video tape recorders, but the interview captures the essence of Peter Kilham.
Check it out below or watch it on YouTube at https://youtu.be/ANYnGe0zHE4 and enjoy!
If you think climate change is bad now, wait. Imagine what your descendants will experience:
They walked the desert in our land.
They saw shards and wrecks
scattered in the sand.
Not broken pots or pillars of stone,
but avatar people talking
on everyone's phone.
They heard a ghostly voice
From a gossamer muse,
“Look around for what's nice--
Something besides plastics and rust.
The creations of art and music
fed the worms and now are dust.”
Desertlandia ©2018 Larry Kilham
See all of Larry Kilham's poems on this site here.
The Perfectionist: Peter Kilham and the Birds is about my father, Peter Kilham, who was a great designer, inventor, and visionary. Through a compelling sense of purpose and perfection he invented bird feeders which brought millions of people happiness. I will share my conversations with him along the way. Everyone can draw inspiration from his story. It is something like Tuesdays with Morrie.
The book is now on Amazon as an ebook here.
There is also an amateur off-the-air recording of my father Peter Kilham interviewed by an NBC TV station around 1980. The image quality is technically poor, characteristic of the early video tape recorders, but it captures the essence of Peter Kilham. See it on YouTube .
Here is an excerpt from the book:
My father showed us that purpose, spirit, tenacity, and character fuel a person’s quest for success no matter how daunting the struggle. Key values aiding the quest are truth and perfection. The magical strength of the human heart and the extraordinary intellectual capacity of the human brain are worth more than any collection of material things and more relevant than the collective wisdom of the crowd. As Robert Pirsig wrote in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, “The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”
But times are changing. As my father noted when he was interviewed by John M. Conly of The Atlantic magazine in the October 1960 issue:
“Where was art? I wondered,” says Kilham. “In Leonardo’s time there was a reason for painting, for building cathedrals. Today there is only self-expression. The result is emptiness.”
The digital age seems to bypass true creativity and beauty. It becomes more pervasive as people, particularly the younger generations, squeeze into cities and absorb almost all their information from glowing screens. Being at one with nature and enjoying it as an artform itself is becoming a quaint pastime of the older generation. We are increasingly in the matrix of the digital world.
People must see that the whole universe is available to them and that creativity has never been more important than now. Children should realize that there is an infinite future for them. Society’s failure is failure to give them hope and encouragement. People’s dreams and imagination are the starting points for great creations.
For those who would seriously like to invent and produce something like the world’s best bird feeder, my father offered these insights an interview with a local newspaper:
My ideas aren't guaranteed to make anyone's fortune. But then again—if you're not in a hurry—maybe they will. You ask me how I came up with a bird feeder that made the world beat a path to my door? By doing my work according to these notions:
1. Make sure you satisfy yourself. Don't let yourself be rushed into doing things you're not proud of. Be a perfectionist.
2. Don't be afraid to fail. Be willing to work by trial and error. The life we live is made up of falls and recoveries. The falls educate us and the recoveries enrich us.
3. Reach for excellence always. You can never reach that perfection yourself, but if you try as hard as you can that's the main thing. That's where happiness lies. And, often, success as well.
My 2012 novel Love Byte foretold our brave new world of fake news and fraudulent social media messages. In the opening pages, we overhear:
“Good evening, Dr. Renwick. This is Dr. Erwin Krakouer, the National Security Advisor. We met at a security conference in Washington.”
“Good evening. Everyone calls me ‘Tom.’”
“Tom, let me get right to the point. Do you recall the Arab Spring and the riots in Cairo?”
“Did you notice that the revolutionaries used Facebook and Twitter to organize and inflame the riots? And undoubtedly you followed the more sophisticated uses of the social media employed in England, Russia and the Occupy Wall Street movement right here in America?”
“Yes, but I didn’t think that much about it at the time.”
“Well, let’s add some new technology. Now that we have an AI supercomputer that can think, talk, and listen like a human, couldn’t we program it to promote and guide riots and revolutions in target countries? Couldn’t we set up websites, email identities, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts so that the computer could send out thousands of messages to the waiting multitudes as if the computer were dozens of revolutionary leaders—or in other cases, top government leaders? Could it read and listen to the replies and media responses, and then could it send out more social media blasts tuned to changes and new developments?”
“Absolutely. We have the capability right here,” Tom replied.
“And if the nation found itself in a cyber war, could Juno be programmed to screw up all the enemy computers?”
“Yes, it could be done,” Tom answered slowly, “but I would need to connect Juno to one of the big computers that already have cyber warfare programming. The good news is that these computers are right here at the labs in our Cyber Warfare Group.”
The book goes on to explore the implications of this media-modifying technology through the persona of Juno, a frighteningly intelligent supercomputer who is involved at every step. Whole political empires are upset in the United States and abroad. Love Byte is available from Amazon as an ebook and paper book.
Free Will is a concept or phenomenon that appears through all literature and common discourse since civilization began. In some sense, it definitely exists, but it means different things to different people. It is a semantic construct, not a defined constant like the physical law of gravity. With this latitude for interpretation, free will has become a favorite subject for philosophers.
Does free will conflict with predestination? The orthodoxy of some religions views that to be the case. Many scientists, perhaps particularly physicists, would agree for different reasons. But there is also the point of view that free will in some significant form can coexist with religious predestination and scientific determinism.
The more traditional thinkers—often religious philosophers—maintain that God or some other supernatural force or being controls our destiny, so free will, if we even have it, does the individual little or no good. The forces of predestination encompass great time and distance, so the tiny human’s free will, such as it may be, is not significant. The counter to that school of thought is we must have significant free will to choose to follow God and that, in any case, God wants us to use our free will to our best advantage in our daily lives.
Noting that sin is a central tenet of many religions, logicians say if we have no free will, we cannot sin when we do a sinful act, such as murder, because we have no choice. We do whatever our neurons tell us to do. This could be called neural predestination.
Often questioning or even dismissing free will are the determinists—usually scientists—who claim that we are totally driven by our cerebral computer. Our every action is the outcome of a series of logical interactions of our neurons from our birth to the present instant. If you were to replay any piece of your history, you would always make the same decision. You are, in effect, a DNA-driven robot, according to this school.
On the other hand, some scientists, particularly neurologists, believe that the prefrontal cortex in the human brain gives humans the unique ability to foresee the future and plan within a complex social environment. It gives humans the sense of responsibility toward the self and others. This allows humans to manage their destiny at the command of their free will.
These issues play out in my new book Free Will Odyssey. You may get it as an ebook, paper book, or audiobook at Amazon.
Larry Kilham is a Sloan School of Management graduate from MIT, received three patents, and has founded two high-tech companies. Many of his product designs required innovative use of computers, and as early as the 1960s he was researching artificial intelligence (AI).