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Vines Of Our Minds
By Raymond Greiner
As we slip quietly beyond the half-century mark vistas change. Memories move to the forefront and dreams become complex. During formative years carefully configured social outlines are presented to guide us.
I was born in 1940, which was considered the last year identified as Depression Era babies. We lived in West Virginia until I was eleven, then moved to Marion, Ohio where my dad found a better job. West Virginia didn’t really feel the effects of the Depression, as it historically has been a poor state with fewer economic opportunities than more industrialized states. Deprivation was nothing new in West Virginia. Neighboring states were more affected by Depression years as they were reliant on factory employment, which crashed during the Great Depression. In 1941 Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, trigging American involvement in World War II. This event changed everything. Factories began manufacturing military hardware funded by the government. My memory activated around age four and I vaguely remember radio newscasts describing war events.
So, have we progressed since this time or regressed? I think it depends on how you view any number of things, but they all relate to money in one way or another. The power of money has only intensified since World War II. Money is relatively new on the human timeline and gained prominence when agriculture expanded and food became abundantly available in contrast to the hunter-gatherer era. Agriculture’s improved efficiency caused radical change. Cities formed with distinct boundaries and governments were established to implement social standards. Barter slowly died out as even basic necessities, like food, had to be purchased. Money created a means of exchange to distribute food. Grain was the first form of money, which later evolved into coins. The power of money became a control mechanism. Money required a whole new social system.
Over time, money corrupted governments and caused moral subversion. Before money took over, society was different. Shelters were more uniformly constructed. This changed once housing could be bought and it became a source of social identity. Property ownership meant larger scale wars and conquests because people had a greater desire to own more than their neighbors did. The Bronze Age offered more sophisticated weaponry and Sumer established the first standing army and invaded Elam in an act identified as the first major military subjugation. Ancient tribes were more cognizant of the importance of unity as a necessity for survival and this new era viewed war as a means of geographic expansion, domination, and control. Instead of killing animals for food, the goal became killing fellow humans to possess their land.
Major changes occurred in the Fertile Crescent in southern Mesopotamia, known as the cradle of civilization. To me, it seems that the ancients were more civilized than the Sumerians, the inventors of the monetary unit. The present-day mentality is more like the Sumerian approach to civility. We have "advanced" beyond swords, spears, clubs, and bows and arrows. Now we able to kill millions in a flash using long-range atomic missiles. Our philosophy is so Sumer c. 3000 BCE. The difference is we are far more efficient at killing each other.
I live in a remote rural location and the nearby small town’s most successful business is the local liquor store. The parking lot is at capacity between five and seven each evening as customers buy joy juice, cigarettes, and scratch-off lottery tickets. As we evaluate ourselves, so many are convinced that we have advanced as a society. We enjoy the luxury of physical comforts unavailable to ancient cultures. Technological developments exceed anything previously imagined. Yet social disarray continues to expand.
The brain is a spiritual organ serving as a central station offering passage to metaphysical destinations. Typically those of this era choose nearby methods to discover emotional and physical satisfaction. We ask ourselves “What can I do to deliver feelings of joy and happiness?” As this thought is processed, images of a so-called perfect, happy life form. Most involve money—and lots of it. Money tops the list as its power has unlimited potential to place ourselves in a position of social prominence. We can buy a luxurious home or an expensive car to up our status. We can use it to buy expensive food, drugs, and alcohol to consume emotionally and numb ourselves, not really to meet our nutritional needs. Choices and degree of consumption occupy the root of personal destruction.
Technology plays a role in social changes, and of course we use money to buy new tech. Cell phone obsession has people staring at their devices all the time, even while driving. It’s an easy addiction to fall into. When television first appeared it was similar, as people crowded into neighbors' homes, mesmerized by this new device as they stared at the tiny screen. It was so addictive the TV dinner was invented, so viewers could share evening meals on small fold up tables in their living rooms while watching television.
My first experience with television came in 1951. Voss engineering employed my dad to sell used and rebuilt manufacturing equipment. Mr. Voss was wealthy and had a magnificent home. One Sunday, we visited and I remember his wife. She painted figurines. In the corner of the living room was a television with about a fifteen-inch screen, which was considered very large at that time.
It’s challenging to find spiritual enlightenment while entrapped in fantasies of what society calls ideal. The new trinket you hold in your hand or the huge plate of food you consume at the local all you can eat buffet delivers no spiritual enlightenment. All it delivers are false euphoric emotions—for a dollar amount, of course. I operated a business for 47 years and was overwhelmed by the power of money. The "right answers" all seemed to live in fiscal wealth. During the past ten years as a retiree, I’ve lived an entirely different life compared to my money earning years. Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify” and, for me, no statement holds more truth and meaning.
More than anything we need collective unity, love, compassion, peace, and social balance. War is pure ignorance. I'll never forget listening to Donald Trump talk about bombings on the campaign trail. The cheers were deafening. Hatred grew when Trump was elected president. Social division, driven by anger and prejudice, escalated. When the iconic basketball coach Bobby Knight spoke at a Trump campaign rally, he said, “He’s got the guts to drop the bomb.” Trump flashed is smirking smile and gave his signature two thumbs up.
Are we the new Sumerians?
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