The Custom of Telling the Bees

I read that the Royal Beekeeper at Buckingham Palace told the bees in the beehives there that the Queen had died but that they had a new master who would take good care of them. The beekeeper apparently received some teasing in the Press, but it turns out that the practice of “telling the bees” about momentous occasions such as weddings, births, and deaths is an old custom, especially in England, but also throughout Europe. No one knows where or when the practice began; there is some speculation that it goes back to ancient Greece and the belief that bees … Read More

The Power of Men in Power

Today’s headlines are full of the military “mobilization” occurring in Russia in connection with the war in Ukraine. As Russian police and military—men in power—knock on doors in the middle of the night to serve unsuspecting draft-age men (not in power) with enlistment papers, other men are rushing to the airports or driving cars to the border, desperate to escape. This brings up fifty year old memories of a time when I and my whole generation were draft age, subject to men in power, facing conscription into our country’s war in Vietnam.
I haven’t seen any articles or commentaries drawing … Read More

Sound Pollution is Making Us Stupid

On top of the many grievous issues facing our world today, it may seem as though sound pollution is somewhere down the list, but after reading Ed Yong’s bestselling book An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us I have come away impressed how critically important all the senses are for every animal, including us. Yong reveals to the reader all the miraculous ways that living things—birds, fish, mammals, even plants—experience what he calls their Umwelt, the world of their senses, and how limited our own human sense organs are compared to other creatures. Many birds … Read More

Zombie Ice and Karma

I learned a new term recently—maybe you too saw the headline—“zombie ice.” Zombie ice is glacier ice in Greenland that scientists have determined is 100% certain to melt into the ocean at some point in the reasonably near future. The water under the glaciers has warmed to the point that the ice—like a cube of ice dropped into boiling water—is irrevocably doomed to melt, probably by 2050 or sooner. At this point, nothing can stop this process, hence the term “zombie ice.”
I don’t know who invented this term, but never say that scientists don’t have a sense of humor. … Read More

Smartphone Addiction and Men

It’s not news that smartphones are addictive. There have been many studies that have validated the seductive lure of smartphones. One study noted that 47% of people in a large survey admit that they are addicted. 71% check their phones within 10 minutes of waking. 45% say that their phone is their most valuable possession, and on average Americans check their phones 344 times a day. That’s over 20 times in each waking hour, or once every 3 minutes. And that’s an average!
There is not much gender difference when it comes to addiction. If anything, women and girls are … Read More

Fishing and Hunting are Meditations

The thesis of this article is that fishing and hunting are ways that men (and women) can seek meditative quiet, commune with nature, and spend intimate time with friends. Of course women can fish and hunt, and I’m sure some do, but traditionally these are activities associated with men; one website claimed that 90% of hunters are men. I personally have never hunted, although my father took me fishing once or twice. But I’ve known many men who remember hunting or fishing trips with their Dad as important and memorable bonding experiences.
The other aspect of hunting, especially, is that … Read More

Aging and Wistfulness

Before I begin, a caveat: this essay is not just for the over-65 set. People of all ages are aging, and wistfulness can be a feature of any age. But the older you are, the more wistfulness seeps slowly into your awareness, like a subtle fragrance.
That said, I hope that the over-65s, even the over-50s, will follow along with me; I think it will be worthwhile. I write regularly about aging, and have written a couple of books about the subject. I am 75, so the topic is not theoretical for me, or for many of my friends. In … Read More

Elder Wisdom and Porch Sitting

I have recently learned a new term: “porch sitting.” This term even has its own Wikipedia article—which surprised me. It means exactly what the words imply: sitting on your porch, often in a rocking chair, perhaps sipping a cool drink, and watching the world and your neighbors go by. Porch sitting is not just a leisure activity, it is, or used to be, incorporated in the necessary architectural design of houses. Before air conditioning, before television and computers, in the evening the often screened-in porch was often cooler than indoors, and urban planners liked the idea of the front … Read More

How Not to Be a Doomer

I have recently learned a new term: “doom-scrolling.” Doom-scrolling is obsessively scrolling through your phone or computer reading news stories or social media posts about catastrophic events—climate change, mass shootings, hate crimes, political strife—the list goes on. Covid has made this worse. During the two years of Covid we had to include reading all the terrible stories about crowded hospital wards with people on ventilators gasping for air. I confess that on bad days I have yielded to the temptation to doom-scroll, and had to hold myself back from the habit and give myself a news holiday.
Now it seems … Read More

Our Obsession With Growth Must End

Back in the 1980s, Small Is Beautiful, a book by contrarian British economist E.F. Schumacher, became trendy among counterculture intellectuals. Schumacher posited that the conventional understanding of capitalist economics, based on ever-increasing growth and wealth creation, was wrong and would lead to planetary degradation. That was over forty years ago—before the internet, before social media, before climate change and all the planetary crises of today that made Schumacher look like a prophet and sage. As it often is with prophets, his salient words were largely ignored. It’s interesting how some forward-thinking ideas have cachet for a brief time, and then … Read More