The Path to Sagedom

Maria Bustillos talks wisdom.

Anybody who supposes himself wise is already demonstrating the reverse. Therefore the cleverest, most beneficial advice must always come disguised as something else. Because who can ever really believe that he knows better?

This is wrong. There is a path to sagedom. There has to be. We can see the trails. The sages left trails. Wise old people leave trails.

I dunno. At a glance, she looks like she at least made it out of crippling pride and petulance. I hope to. I gotta try. It is going to involve more shutting up which is hard for me because I like the sound of my own voice.

So how about this instead:
Anyone who supposes himself wise may become so despite himself.

It’s really something I need to be true. I don’t trust people who believe what they need to be instead of what is. I don’t know if you should either. But I can be foolish enough to offer my advice.

By the way, I really identified with this passage.

“Why are you doing this? Why are you interested in it?”

The speeding train of my babbling was here forced to make the sudden acquaintance of a brick wall. I realized at once that this was in no way a bullshittable question. Blood pounded in my ears. This guy! Clearly didn’t like me, had never liked me, why would he? Ugh! This cold fish, this Blifil! Okay then think fast, answer the question. Why are you doing this?

You know when you are in a car accident or something and time is moving so very, very slowly, and you have time to think a million thoughts, it was like this; something shifted so deep in my head, a subtle lever barely touched and I realized that this wasn’t an attack, but a most serious question, indeed the only really Platonic question I would ever be asked by a teacher, devoid of performance or convention or ego or cant or anything but itself. Please understand that in my ignorance I flew straight past the significance of this event, even as my opinion of Van Luchene underwent an instantaneous reversal. What I’d thought of all year as coldness I now dimly understood as gravity in the service of a higher purpose. This was a very damn good question, I thought. In fact it was the question.

Stopping the tide of my hoped-for eloquence. A child, wildly overindulged, told far too often that she was so smart, persuaded, sure, that no door was or would ever be closed (thank you, I am very grateful) but encouraged also to suppose that excitement and pleasure in ideas was enough in itself, a child, in love with the sound of her own voice. Books, ideas like a whirl of confetti, purposeless, ornamental, without flavor or sustenance, like plastic fruit.

Supposing herself wise. Or pre-wise, I thought probably. Among those, I believe, who also thought themselves wise. And that is just what Plato is not about; he is about making yourself completely transparent so that the truth has a way in (and out). It’s the least showy person, perhaps, who quite often has the most to say to us. You only have to know to listen.

What the hell was I going to say? This silence had been going on for an alarmingly long time. Many seconds, an eternity. I must speak. And a sudden joy overtook me, for I knew I was about to tell the truth, equally devoid for once of performance, ego or cant, for almost the first time, maybe, in that tiny little life of the mind. A staggering epiphany.

“I don’t know.”

I want to be a sage.  It is not a well defined career path. I seek wisdom. I’ll settle with wit. Both are elusive enough that you just gotta be happy when they visit.


Hobby Lobby

The Angry Black Lady has a rundown on Hobby Lobby refusing to comply with the recent Supreme Court order to provide contraception coverage to its employees. At a fee of $1.3 million/day. This makes me sad. I love me some Hobby Lobby. I’ve done some fabulous Christmas shopping at my local Hobby Lobby.

Hobby Lobby used to provide contraception coverage. They only cut coverage after the Affordable Care Act came along and said that they had to provide it. I am inclined to agree with ABL when she says “Just go bankrupt, and then go fuck yourselves.”

NGWA Lessons

How did my attendance at the meeting help me develop an understanding of environment and sustainability related issues?*
I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed up to go to the 2012 NGWA expo in Las Vegas.
I saw a Texas Auctioneer. I ate between a man who was “A Georgian by birth and a Republican by the grace of god” and a California man who represented the Orange Country water district. He was attending to accept a reward as his district had been moving off of imported water toward recycled water.  I saw inflatable packer sales reps and bentonite sales reps and mud cleaning sales reps and I even won a most excellent book from a well screen sales rep**.  I even saw a booth set up to give foot massages.  I couldn’t walk ten feet without bumping into an aspiring or retiring water well drilling contractor. However, I was surrounded by folks who take very seriously the charge of preserving our groundwater resources and how safety is job one***.
I saw drillers who were concerned with their shallow <1000ft geothermal fracking operations may being lumped in with 8000 ft natural gas fracking operations.  They voiced these concerns to a North Carolina department of Environmental and Natural Resources representative at the Hydraulic Fracturing-Regulatory Officials Panel. 
I learned the NGWA is an old well driller association that is going though the process of broadening its membership horizion and engagement just like the Geology, Geography, and Atmospheric Sciences departments merged to form the Earth, Society, and the Environment department a while back.  The organization is taking steps, but it has a ways to go.  I saw an award ceremony that lauded international hydrogeolgists and academics and remediation efforts.  I get their publication, Groundwater, that is dominated by academic publications.  However, the expo floor is still mostly a well drillers trade show.  The classes offered are largely well contractor continuing education.  A hydrogeologist emailed me that they have never been to the expo because it conflicts with the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco. 
I learned that one of the most often mentioned difficulties that the well drillers have is finding good help.  They were unable to relate what they referred to as a “video game generation.” They said that the younger generation doesn’t have the same work ethic that they grew up learning.  They said they were having trouble finding acceptable employees and keeping acceptable employees after a training period.  Then I read threads like these where Millennials are proudly stating their desires to travel and not get tied down by a mortgage. I am currently unsure of what conclusions to draw.
Finally, I learned that a solid understanding of geology is vital in the efforts to protect groundwater. Everything from the selection of well screen slot size to mixing drilling fluid to choosing the right drilling sand/bit and more depends on geology. 
Final quote:
An Israeli hydrogeologist receiving an award said something to the extent of: 
“Too often in academia are we solving problems that don’t exist in industry and too often in industry we have problems that are unknown at the academy.” 
Cross posted at the NGWA forum.
*A requirement for my Vegas travel grant to get convention expenses reimbursed involves submitting a response to this question the director of my department.
**I want to get a shameless shoutout to Johnson Screens.   
***A surprising discovery is how important lunch is to this mission.  (h/t Roger E. Renner, Instructor of Mud Rotary Drilling


“Graphic violence in the media.  Does it glamorize violence? Sure. Does it desensitize us to violence? Of course. Does it help us tolerate violence? You bet. Does it stunt our empathy for our fellow beings? Heck yes. 
Does it CAUSE violence?… Well, that’s hard to prove.  The trick is to ask the right question.”  Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes-Bill Watterson (Watterson, 1996) (Strip found here)

How would we know if the world is on an unsustainable path?
This is not a question with an answer.  It specifically does not have an answer because of the two large, vague concepts in the question of “the world” and “sustainable.”  We could know if the world is on a un/sustainable path if the timeframe we measure by is between now and entropy.  
But that isn’t the question you are driving at.  You are driving at the question of “How and why is society messing up our world and how can we fix it?”  or “How and why is society being poor stewards of our natural resources and how can we fix it?”  
Are we ruining our fisheries? Sure. Are we losing our our soils? Of course. Have we put unprecedented-in-human-history amounts of carbon into our atmosphere? You bet. Are we draining our water supplies? Heck yes.
Are we unsustainable?  Well… that’s hard to say.  The trick is to ask the right question.
Watterson, Bill. There’s Treasure Everywhere: A Calvin And Hobbes Collection. Kansas City : Andrews And McMeel, 1996. Print.


I was recently given the following response on an assignment: 

“I appreciate your writing style and willingness to challenge the validity of the discussion question posed. I can understand that you find the use of GMOs to be a foregone conclusion, however that should not prevent you from forming an informed opinion about whether or not that GMOs are beneficial.  Next time take a stance, if nothing else so you can practice crafting an argument about a controversial topic. “
If presented with the option of “For or against, yes or no, beneficial or not” and I don’t have a strong feeling one way or the other on the topic, I will take the stance of “wait.”  Unlike computers, I don’t feel impelled to operate on Boolean logic.  If pressed, I will clarify my stance one or more of the following: “This line of inquiry is not beneficial at this time,” as well as “You are foolish to be in such a hurry to take a stance based on the knowledge we have at the time,” and “This line of reasoning does not yield fruit or serve to better understand the issues at hand.”
Taking a strong neutral stance needs to be practiced just like taking a strong positive or negative stance is.  It is often the wise, and underrepresented decision.  As a rhetorical tactic, if used poorly, it can succumbs to muddying of the waters, however, if used well, it offers enough rope to those muddying the waters to hang themselves.  It also makes any non-neutral stance one takes more significant.
Wait. Take a neutral stance.  It is an eastern thing.  Use it.  Practice it. Practice it as much as you practice saying “this is beneficial” or “this is not beneficial,” giving various reasons.