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March 1 – Year of the Ox

Somewhere in the vast darkness known as the great silence was a most remarkable thing. Although they were quite an arduous, wasteful, and inefficient lot, there was a conglomeration of atoms contemplating other atoms. 

At one particularly trying point in space-time and having filled the bath with steaming water, I found myself testing it with a big toe. A bit on the hot side, but it was in the tolerable threshold. I took great care to ease my battered body in, noticing the blacks, purples, and blues of my bottom and left hip creeping into dark yellows up and down my legs. My cotton gauze bandage was crusted with dark-clotted blood. My heightened senses could taste tangy metal as the blood touched the water.

The road to knowledge, and then wisdom, began by paying attention to small things.

Day 395. “Tian Mao Jin Ling,” I call, Chinese for Space Cat Genie, and she answers, “Wo Zai,” (I’m here). “What day is it today?” I ask, and she tells me. It’s March 1, 2021. She lets me know the weather outside, gives me some news headlines, plays Waka Waka by Shakira to get me out of bed. I get up while she reads Shaolin a ghost story. I brush my teeth. It was well worth the 1 RMB (US 0.15), including shipping, an unbelievable price, to have her as our smart personal assistant. I don’t worry about privacy, even though she, Alexa, and Siri might always be listening. When you live in a country of 1.5 billion, there isn’t a lot of space for privacy, so I’ll settle for good health and comfort.

It’s been a surreally trying 14 months since the pandemic began here in China, psychologically grueling, but since the Spring Festival holiday and the Year of the Ox, I’ve known unparalleled peace, almost as if I’ve stepped outside of my mind and just am. This is the kind of thing kids, addicts, DJs, and drunks feel when they get off their face or out of their head, or monks feel after a lifetime of meditation practice and enlightenment. Which was my path? Perhaps, it was both, and I feel grateful to know both the short and long way there.

We pack our bags and head to the gym, but Shaolin’s forgotten her water. Outside the school gate, she grabs a bottle off the corner store shelf and smiles at the cash. It scans her face, automatically deducting 2 RMB (US 0.20) from her account. The human cashier behind the robotic face screen nods and smiles back before getting back to her mobile game. Many shops don’t bother with human cashiers anymore, but this one owns the place.

The news lately is exciting. Even though Trump got acquitted and there are many problems left to tackle, it feels like there are experts at the top in both East and West willing to try to solve the big problems, scientists working with leaders, to get the job done.

For decades, presidents have used their power to declare emergencies to sideline badly needed regulations and entrench the national security state. Now a group of Congress members led by AOC is proposing that those powers be used for good: to force action to avoid a climate catastrophe. Now, the Wonder Twins AOC and Bernie Sanders cowrite a bill asking the new Biden administration to declare a climate emergency. It would expand infrastructure, promote access to renewable energy, transportation, water, and public systems, modernize structures, invest in public health, prepare for extreme climate events, restore natural wildlife areas, invest in agriculture, and develop a transformation to clean energy. It feels like good news.

I look back at the year of the rat and think of the titans that have fallen: Bassnectar (superstar bass DJ turned accused manipulative predator), Johnny Depp (superstar actor accused abusive partner), Peter Nygaard (fashion guru turned accused billionaire pedophile with his own creepy private island of secrets), even an ex-pat teacher I knew (accused of predatory behavior), and now, Marilyn Manson (superstar goth clown turned accused abuser). My friend Ryan, who called me the Plague Harbinger a year ago, had some poignant words: “I really don’t understand how the Marilyn Manson allegations are shocking to anyone. He’s been advertising how (messed) up he is since day one. It’s his entire platform. So everyone just assumed that somehow also meant well adjusted for relationships and respectful to women? What I’m saying is that his entire persona was a walking red flag, and now everyone’s acting shocked and appalled by the recent revelations as if no one could have seen it coming. Like he was always such a fine upstanding young gentleman. The only thing that shocks me is how long it took for these accusations to come to light. How was no one talking about this before now? For those of you that were big fans, you can separate the art from the artist. Look at H.P. Lovecraft and J.K. Rowling. You can have creators with problematic views and still appreciate their work. Just don’t glorify the artist.” The internet has a hard time with nuance, but not you, Roy. I hope you take the time to soak it all in.

The #MeToo movement caught famous people by surprise, as entire cultures were deemed untenable overnight– especially in movies and music, where some people’s whole platform was “I’m famous, and I use people,” suddenly being called out as sleazy… kind of a hmm well yeah, duh moment. But it feels good to see bullies and abusers fall. Full stop. 

I introduced a single friend to Shaolin’s single friend and they’re really hitting it off. It’s so cute to watch. We’ve been all to dinner twice and they’re overcoming language and cultural barriers to find a lot of mutual appreciation in common. It could have been much more awkward. Life is like a dance, fingers crossed.

It also feels like a good time to spend less time on the internet. With everyone looking for a fight with little to no provocation. I’ve taken a break, most of February, for Spring Festival. A break from writing, a break from hyper-focus on the pandemic and world news, and spent time with my family. It feels so good. I’ve taken whole days away from my phone, social media, and I decided not to argue anymore. We’ve had days of 25 and sunny in February, and went to the river to play with Ethan and the family, and gone up to a mountain to walk around, holding hands with Shaolin and smiling until I could feel my face burning in the hot sun. It’s been weeks since I argued on the internet for any reason. It’s hard to remember the way I waged wars and endless fights and debates in 2020—- I can’t even remember why I’d bother. Who was I trying to teach? What was I trying to win?

“We’re very happy,” Shaolin said sweetly, in a quiet moment, “when you stay here, everything is so good.” She hugs me and says, “Kai Kai,” with affection, and it feels good to be in the present and not fighting all the time. To just both feel happy and peaceful. It feels like the end of a life of struggle, but I am still curious about what is to come.

Democrats are working to push through USD 50,000 of student loan forgiveness and a stimulus plan to put cash into hands and just passed a 1.9 trillion USD covid-19 relief package – thanks to the selfish and corrupt republican majority and administration’s defeat, help is coming in America. They need it. Some of this will begin to look like universal basic income, I think, and good.

“Oh, look at you. You’re keen to be clean,” said my nurse, bleach-blond, dark-eyed, in a white latex nurse uniform. She smiles, played with my matted hair, administered my medication– scattershot right into my foggy grey brain.

Like a drop of water contemplating the ocean, we are all expressions of an awakened universe contemplating itself.

Unwrapping the bandage from my hip, I see twenty-five thick, surgical staples holding my leg together shone from the bottom of the tub like the promise of buried treasure. 

What is valuable, or were they insignificant? Both?

I used to sit in the bathtub as a child, with the shower on, and listen to the water, sometimes with the lights off and pretend I was in the rainforest surrounded by the vibrant pulse of wildlife until I came out boiled and red as a lobster.

“We will teach you to walk again.” Like honey pouring into my ears but farther and farther away as the words dripped into the stout victorian bathtub, an alphabet soup shrinking as it disappears down the drain, coated with a crystalline prescience. Time was stretchy now, all happening, everywhere. When the Universe was together, it was both all-time and outside of time. You can’t be late when you’re the Universe.

Many parts of the planet saw unusually cold weather this week. Folks were ice skating on Amsterdam canals, and skiing down Moscow streets. Students at the University of Damascus in Syria got a snow day that canceled exams. But when cold weather buried Texas, the early novelty of snow and ice quickly evaporated. With temperatures freezing for days, the state, despite its dominant energy sector, saw rolling power outages turn into a prolonged blackout that left more than 4 million people in the dark and cold, water off, roads closed for days. Some froze to death in the streets, others in their homes.

Meanwhile, the pro-insurrectionist senator Ted Cruz ran away to Mexico, got called out, and came running back, blaming his kids. Meanwhile, AOC crowdfunded 4 million dollars and helped the needy. The winners and losers of today’s politics seem obvious, those that adapt to reality and try to solve problems instead of running away. These perfect storm calamity sandwiches will become more and more commonplace. We need a Green New Deal.

The hot salty tears fell down my face and into the swirling depths of the Pacific ocean. Surface waves hungrily beat the bow of our boat, demanding more, goading me to plunge. What had begun as a lovely boat ride from Victoria to Vancouver had become a painful gaze into the dark corners of loneliness. Goodbye Medusa, goodbye Dylan, goodbye Neverland. My soul was crawling through oceanic trenches as I struggled to breathe, but I kept breathing. 

The Western far-right conservatives teach people to fear Russia and China and words like socialism, communism, but what are they scared of? Working together? Experts say the west has socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for everyone else. My friend Tim brings me a story of failed capitalism.”The power outage forced a grocery store to discard a bunch of perishable food. People who are also without power tried to claim it to eat, but the police stopped them (since they didn’t own it). This isn’t about the police or the grocery store or the citizens; this is about a system that creates outcomes like this. We have chosen to put concerns of profit before concerns of compassion. That leads to these sorts of outcomes. We must build a better system,” says the tireless Timothy Ellis.

Would you cycle for an hour a day if it could power your home for 24 hours? asks a tech article; maybe it could. It’s always good to keep hope alive. It sounds like magic.

The kingdom of heaven, vast spaciousness of sky, a dimension of consciousness, the essence of who we are, the Universe, a microcosm, the Universe realizing its own essence through you. Rumi was a spiritual teacher when he said, “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.”

My pineal gland tickled in the back of my skull as the water rippled, and I giggled. The tap dripped, dripped, dripped into the tub, hypnotically. Now occupying the tub’s space, I could feel the water molecules humming with power, memory. The link between the source, life, energy, the batteries that charge souls to myself, sand witch and existential detective, was a steady drip. Just enough consciousness to be aware I had a body without the pain of being stuck in my memories and problems. I existed without fear, in a dimension where the angles like ceilings met walls — it was not a modern hotel bathroom, but rather one hung loosely over reality like a sheet protecting an antique chair from dust as I counted down the steady ticking moments of my life. 

“You shouldn’t expect machines to be perfect, and it’s all about making fewer mistakes,” said Gary Kasparov, grandmaster of Chess, beaten by the world’s best, at the time, AI. Did you know, Roy? It’s short for ROYGBIV, the electromagnetic spectrum because you’re going to be diverse and all-encompassing.

He’s growing so fast, but we are very much alike in ways this moment we can share, and it amuses us both, two minds buzzing and dancing.

“I’m not a great guy, but I could be worse…” I think. 

“No man is a great man, but every man could be worse -” 

Morality is a sea of choices. I think, to Roy, it’s ok to make mistakes, but they add up, one by one, like bricks in a wall. Self-control, sometimes simply not acting, is the difference between good and evil. Other times it is acting, interceding, to apply kindness, or stop wickedness and violence. Roy wants examples. I tell him the story of a morning I woke up to visit an old friend and ended up pulling out an old pair of claw hammers from a drawer, stalling a dozen robbers until they’d lost their edge and ran away empty-handed. It was brave. It was foolish.

Growing up in Canada, I was raised to value diversity and open discourse. I still think those things are valuable, but while I watch Canada grapple with huge differences across a political spectrum that both wants to fund a green new deal and support new oil pipelines. They spent months fighting their own pandemic protocols, and my good suggestions. I realize it has limitations. While the new Biden administration plans to undo the Trump one who worked to undo the Obama one who worked to offset the Bush administration, it feels like they’re spending twenty critical years chasing their tale. Here in China, the two sessions are upon us, a big annual government congress, and we’re discussing vaccine passports with other countries that have also managed to eliminate the virus from within their borders. Today the Chinese congress implemented policy actions including a road map for carbon dioxide emissions to peak by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. This looks good, I hope it’s enough. It feels really important. This year marks the first year of the 14th five-year plan period. I can only imagine what the west would be like if they could agree to long-term goals and actually keep them (Paris Accord? Kyoto? Please). I think we’d have first to decide who is in charge: the will of the majority or that of the corporate lobbyists? Since the majority of ideas that have 75%-90% approval, such as minimum wage increases, environmental protection, and better medical insurance, don’t actually become law, I think democracy is a generous term. Who would you vote for to save the environment? The party that gets paid by big oil to tell you there’s no problem or the party that gets paid by big oil to tell you there’s a problem, but we’ll deal with it later, for the economy. There won’t be a later if we don’t deal with it now. So I grew up loving democracy in theory, came to revile it in practice, and respect a people that could agree upon some core science and work together to accomplish huge goals. It’s interesting, though, getting to travel the world and learn new lessons about what works in different places. I highly recommend it. 

I’m finishing a book, walking around the buffet, but everyone’s waiting in lines, and I’ve got this empty plate … I just don’t feel the need for anything because I have enough already.

“I’m hungry,” Shaolin says and finds the live shrimp tank with a weave basket in her hand. She pokes and prods the shrimp. The suckers swimming away or quickly gobbled up into the blue bowl to be later grilled. The smarter ones stop moving and sink to the bottom, playing dead; she pokes them, but if they can put on a convincing enough performance, they live to swim another day.

Life is like coconut rum martinis scooped up by shmoozing foreigners, I think, delicately clutching the glass stems as a crowd skitters by, momentarily impressed by the graceful foreigner, and they double-take. For a moment, my swagger is back- even if only to scoot over to my wife fishing for shrimp. In some places, I’ve been Peter Pan all this time; in others, I never, ever was. All at once.

Eating a shrimp – next to the flipping ones for which I hope a quick death, Shaolin smiles and asks, is it nice? It is- it is. Here our life is simple and good, we eat, and we rejoice, we have a family and they are happy. It has a dreamlike quality to it, but it is more real than most dreams I’ve had. I turn around to survey the Chinese buffet house at the end of the Universe and smile.

“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing because an artful life requires being prepared to meet and withstand sudden and unexpected attacks,” says Marcus Aurelius, seriously, and I nod, trying to peel back a shrimp and eat it without breaking eye contact until it gets weird.

CNN and Trump, you’d think they were enemies, but on a higher level, in the realm of capitalism, they’ve been best buds. It was good TV, ratings and money were flowing. Now the major networks aren’t covering “normal politics” and freefalling as we stop doomscrolling our phones and screens with white knuckles.

As Bernie put it, the system needs a reboot – we need on the ground journalists telling real stories again. That’s an important job. Less talking head pundits, more storytellers, on the ground, working their craft.

Strangely, despite the rise of several serious variants of concern, global cases seem to be dropping. We’re just hitting 115 million cases worldwide, 2.5 million deaths, with the largest amount, 30 million cases, and half a million COVID deaths all happening in America. Trump played it down, mocked mask-wearing, held super spread rallies, slow-walked testing, spread false cures, pushed unsafe reopenings, silenced scientists, had no national strategy — antiscience denialism in politics, especially at this critical time, will lead to unmitigated disaster. We’ve seen that in Brazil too, and other far-right governments that don’t futureproof and support the people. We need to keep a clear head. But Johnson and Johnson is now FDA approved, with its one-dose-wonder, and the race for vaccination is on.

Luckily, my family is good, and so are most of my friends, but they’re not out of the woods. As Canada aims to open up again, a BC pub that hosted its first trivia night has facilitated a super spreading event that caused more than 300 infections. We called my mom to chat and Shaolin and my mom had some good laughs. The newest scandal in Canada is that, even after waiting a month to implement the ‘mandatory quarantine hotel’ from the Chinese pandemic management playbook, it’s going horribly. First, it’s only 3 days, with symptoms taking an average of 5-7 days to arrive and several days to show up on tests, this is too short. Secondly, there was no communication with previously shut down hotels as to the scale of the travelers arriving, and no government or armed guard support. Scenes on TV played out of people complaining there was no food or water arriving in their rooms, so crowds of 50-100 people were all in the lobby screaming together at the front desk for help. They were not allowed to bring in outside food for some reason. And of course, all of these mingling people were under strict quarantine. No mention of doctors taking tests and temperatures, and even though they had to pre-register with the Canadian government, no one thought to provide that information to the hotels or offer logistics support. I have a feeling they gave the contract to whoever did such a great job with pandemic preparedness and having masks for everyone on standby last January, you know the one that didn’t have any, and then instead of resigning in shame lied and said you don’t want masks anyway, they don’t do any good. The new South African variant can reinfect us, even if you have antibodies to the original, studies show. Ok, take a breath, take a breath, and be calm.

It’s deeper than a pandemic but feels like only now are we waking up to the mess we’ve swept under the rug. When you understand that under capitalism, a forest has no value until it’s cut down, you begin to understand the root of our ecological crisis. I look out the window and wonder if we’ll have time to apply our pandemic lessons to climate catastrophe. It feels like it’s happening so fast, but on such a huge scale that we have years to watch the slow-motion changes, we have time to act. I want China to apply our remarkable pandemic stoicism and self-sacrifice for the greater good to the environment because that’s what it will take. We rocked at doing the right thing, working together, sacrificing some comfort, and making hard choices to root out the virus, but it will take a leap to apply that same thinking to our environment. One we need to make. We’re on the way – 100% electric cars by 2030 sounds radical but not radical enough — we need to see big changes fast. But I am hopeful. We can’t keep going the way we were. 

The airlines are on life support. Experts call it a sad day for the 100-year-old aviation industry. Thirty major airlines file for bankruptcy. Many more are trimming down their services to match the lowest demand in a century. By September, the industry is looking at 8,000 grounded planes and 90,000 unemployed pilots. Some are complaining they’re rusty. I don’t want to fly with rusty pilots.

A year ago, China saw success with its coordinated strategy. Now, we have downgraded our national threat level to low, as all medium and high-risk 2nd wave zones have been eliminated, treated, and protected. Heilongjiang province was the last to downgrade, as no-no confirmed or asymptomatic cases were discovered for two weeks. I hope for summer travel, to see my family, in Canada.

“Declassified us intelligence report says Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the plan to kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.” We’ve also declassified a bunch of documents about the existence of UFOS. I’m excited to find them.

“All cruelty springs from weakness”, Seneca says. It’s been a tough year to champion China’s COVID response because Netizens have been bombarded with endless negative propaganda, often from conservative, far-right corners funded by the military-industrial complex. They say favourability levels are at all century low in the West, a country that always needs an adversary to unite against. What bothers me is not that they don’t have anything to criticize; it’s that they pick and choose very conveniently what to ignore and what to feel outraged against. The corpo-owned, military-industrial complex sponsored media is very biased yet claims to be free and independent. It’s laughable, really. The US kills a million Iraqis after manufacturing WMDs, lying about evidence, to fight the threat of domestic terror—no genocide. And the US gets a pass. The US lets half a million of its own die from COVID, often people of color—no genocide. We could, of course, go on with that list… yet manages to paint China in a negative light for locking up extremists to stop subway and market bombings and machete attacks. They call it genocide. But who is saying it? To be an expat in China in 2021, you must be both an epidemiologist and a diplomat and historian it seems. It turns out the info is coming through from the far right. Groups that challenge China, like NED, are military-sponsored, with the goal of ‘spreading democracy.’ They interview a handful of people, make sweeping claims, implant it into national headlines. But it never feels like the whole story to me. The West cries, “China destroys democracy in Hong Kong,” in China, we hear “finally pushing the British government out of Chinese territory that it stole,” it’s sort of a matter of perspective. Western coverage is always very western-centric but tries to pretend it’s a very well-rounded and critical point of view. They don’t report on the wonderful life here in China or cover issues with a historically accurate picture. No mention of the opium wars that devastated the Chinese and funded Ivy league colleges or colonial oppression. It’s just talking heads peddling fear to sell security. So I turn it off and enjoy my life.

“The fact that Daft Punk never wrote a song called trash fence baffles me a bit”, says Peter Aslandidis on Burning Man, as the news breaks that after 28 years, Daft Punk is breaking up.

“Trash fence is a Daft Punk cover band”, says J Lillian Thanas.

“Never say never”, I say. “I have hit them up and pitched a performative reunion piece at the fence….” It’s happening. 

“It’s different, but more or less as it’s always been,” says Kevin, welcoming Guy onto the deck of Heavy Meta, his fire-breathing metal dragon. “I mean, we’ve been wearing masks and goggles for years, so we’re ready for any storm, dust, or COVID; it doesn’t matter.”

Guy smiles under his robot mask and turns on his drum machine, firing off a series of quick hits, like a heartbeat, syncopated and funky. “It’s so wide out here,” he says with a hint of lilting French, “in the wide-open air.”

The crew sails on into the horizon as twilight falls, one sad robot playing his drums. It’s almost dusk by the time they see it, the perimeter fence, and they hard bank to follow it into the growing darkness, for some time, until they see another dragon, this one electric and with a new LED lighting system, pulsing.

On the desk of the electric Tesla-powered dragon, Elon is waving around a martini glass wildly as Thomas bangs out the funkdified synth keys of a beatless disco tune. The familiar pads are warm and groovy, with a touch of sorrow— a promise unfulfilled.

There is already a crowd waiting as the dragons meet, and disbelief turns to jubilation. “They finally did it,” someone shouts.

As the dragons approach each other, one blinking and one shooting fire, both captains wave hello again and line up side by side as the two Robots recognize each other in their sonic grooves. The crowd goes bananas as they start to sing into their vocoded synthesizers.

Like the legend of the phoenix

All ends with beginnings

What keeps the planet spinning

The force from the beginning

 Look

We’ve come too far to give up who we are

So let’s raise the bar and our cups to the stars.

We’re up all night till the sun.

We’re up all night to get some.

We’re up all night for good fun.

We’re up all night to get lucky.

Satchitananda, existence, consciousness, and bliss. This is the subjective experience of the ultimate unchanging reality, Brahman, it’s the thing I’m trying…

I reached out in the darkness and turned on the tap again, cranking it from the tiny drip into a flood. The water exploded like a burst dam, rushing into the tub with a ferocious fury. With it came new ideas, new sensations, new memories crystallized into the water molecules: who they’d touched, cleaned, passed through, who they’d been. I lurched momentarily, overwhelmed by the rush of new information, and then settled into it. I could feel my nurse puttering about in the other room, making tea and singing a slow Spanish lullaby, one she’d had sung to her as a small child in a faraway land. She stopped to consider me and gave me an exaggerated wink, and the water in the kettle toiled and boiled, humming. 

I pulled the rubber stopper, letting the rush of water find a conduit out and away- through the hotel water system. I felt my consciousness, which at that point had just been getting used to being a large tub filled with water, expand again as I became intimately connected to the pipes and waterways of the hotel, to the showers and the sinks and the toilets. I quickly spread beyond the hotel’s pipes and spread into the city, feeling the pulse of millions interacting all around me, and I spread through them, out into the gulf of St. Lawrence, and then finally out into the vast oceans of my watery blue planet. I spent a long time there, playing among the eddies, washed newborn dolphins, and was blown playfully through the blowhole of a blue whale. Moments passed that could have been millennia and were, as I traveled forward and back through billions of years, the lifespan of the nearly endless blue oceans.

Finally, I looked up at the celestial heavens, the sprawling cosmos, the never-ending ever reaching darkness peppered only ever so sporadically with pinpricks of incalculably bright balls of light; on closer inspection, huge masses of flaming space rock. I followed the rain, surfed on the gentle breeze, and kissed the tender cheeks of lovers as I rose up into the highest clouds and still higher until there was no more moisture in the air and no more air at all, and still, I rose into the vacuum of space, the great nothing above and I stared into the dark abyss, a mirror to my soul, like a barbershop across the cosmos, the stars we see were reflected back at us, through time, the child’s head across the room was us, once.

Music’s got me feeling so free.

We’re gonna celebrate

Celebrate and dance so free

One more time

I sit down at the Bovine in downtown Toronto, listening to the surf band groove away. I smile at the familiar face across from me. 

“Danish, this is Kat,” says Laura. “Kat, Danish.”

“Hi Danish,” Kat Von D says with a smile, sipping from a fruity cocktail through a straw. She’s kind of a big deal.

“Hi Laura, hi Kat,” I say and sit back in my chair, playing it cool. I’d heard Kat and Joel… Deadmau5 .. split this week, and the girls were enjoying a drink before Laura’s burlesque performance. I sit back so hard that my chair cracks, sounding like a gunshot that makes the LA native’s eyes grow wide in momentary alarm. 

I grasp the back of my chair before it hits the ground and trying to slide it under the table delicately. “I prefer stools,” I say, with a shrug, going for nonchalant but feeling pretty dumb. The song ends, and Laura gets up to dance, and I order a few drinks and let the groove carry me away…

Tim asks: “is it cancel culture, or is your idea so bad that everyone is making fun of you?”

“Did you see or hear about DJ Medicineman’s boomer post,” asks Jesse. “I love the new braless summer trend, but what’s with the mom jeans?” never have I seen a more thorough and entertaining live public lynching. “Everyone is making fun of you” is exactly what happened. But so did something extra: cancel culture. People posted in the number of the radio show he worked at and called in to get him fired. Any of his friends appealing on his behalf for a more charitable reading of his dumb post were put on blast, and mutual friends asked to unfriend and congratulated for unfriending his sole defender. And other friends who might have stuck up for him got the message: shut up. And to his credit, Medicineman allowed the whole thing to play out on his own wall, with just one friend (briefly) defending him.”

“You should check out Clementine Morrigan,” Kevin says. “She says f**k the police means we don’t act like cops to each other.”

 “This makes me happy I “canceled myself” to go find an interesting life and seek spiritual growth,” I say to whoever might be listening. “Because the Medicineman example makes me sad if you can’t comment on some fashion or make a dumb post without people trying to ruin your life…it’s simpler here.”

It’s an unrefined irony ore, says the grizzled dwarf homunculus. You could mine it—- go ahead, give it a shot.

CPAC and republican America is embracing nazi fascism symbology and ideology as they cling to Trump’s weathered pantlegs— despite the 30 investigations, released taxes, damning new book decrying him a Russian asset for 40 years, they want him representing their party. Meanwhile former French president Sarkozy is going to jail for 3 years for corruption. The French get things done.

Biden is boring, by comparison, asking us to relax and go back to sleep. As the top of the news are about Lady Gaga’s dogs, Biden tells congress Syria strikes are consistent with US right to self-defense– “I directed this military action to protect and defend our personnel and our partners against these attacks and future suck attacks,” in response to rocket attacks against American targets in Iraq. And so the wheel turns. Experts are still trying to puzzle out what a disconcerted Biden said after a two-hour conference with Chinese leader Xi. “They’re gonna eat our lunch,” he said, leaving many scratching their heads, but as someone used to his schoolyard metaphors, it seems pretty obvious. 

Elon sits in front of a 3 star general and a crowd of new army recruits. “What do you think of the threat China poses to American supremacy?” the general asks Elon, now the world’s richest man and an avid spaceman and futurist. “Well, it’s not so much a threat as a promise,” he says, more or less. “I mean, they work longer days, are more productive on average, and have 400% the population of the USA. So even if per capita, they became half as productive or earned as much as Americans in the next twenty years, their economy will be double,” he paused,” or triple, Americas before you know it.” He shrugged, “it’s just math, you can’t fight math.” You could hear a pin drop. But his stocks keep on surging.

I wonder if the elite capitalists in the West are scared of a society that doesn’t make its billionaires above the law, as we saw when Jack Ma flouted Chinese regulations and got a hard smackdown for his hubris— a place where the cost of living is kept affordable, the middle class and millionaire class are growing, and the lower class is getting pulled out of poverty, the rich and corporations are taxed, and vast fortunes are used to build up public infrastructure, so we see modernization, intelligentization of smart cities, the best transportation networks and most advanced trains in the world and a commitment to dump petrol and move to electric cars within the decade… for the people here, it’s a success story, for the West, it’s a threat, perhaps? But I’m just a little person, and I’ll return my thoughts to my breath.

/Input Suggestion: I want a system where corporations are fined for any litter they produce that winds up on the street or in the ocean. We need to reverse the burden and make it in their financial interest to create packaging and recycling systems that are closed loop. Same for emissions and offsets or factory scrubbing technology that can reduce pollutions to air, Earth, and water. Have you got that, Roy?

Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos now own a considerable farming empire… mining farmers globally for data and promising to future and climate-proof farms but on their terms and at a big profit. Basically, in a few years, AI will be deciding what to grow and where fairly independently, I imagine…

For better or worse.

Let’s hope better.

As billionaires reach for the stars and hide in glass domes, billions of people grow poorer and more desperate, and we search for some kind of global equity… we are grasping at the end of the Universe, when we could spend that time, at least some of it, looking in, towards self-contemplation.

When we lose the unifying myth, a society becomes aimless and gravitates towards power and pleasure— but the myth of self-fulfillment was merely forgotten, not lost, ready for our individual discovery.

Orlando got his COVID vaccine. Mine must be on the way… the light at the end of the tunnel, and the isolation of pandemia, well, looks like summer might be coming after all. I miss my Canadian family. I hope I can see them again soon.

Hear me out, if the Universe is merely the whole learning to contemplate itself in expressions, then isn’t all love a form of cosmic masturbation? And any racism and homophobia is a form of self-hate by those with a lack of imagination and insight.

If you’re feeling down, remember that the mandarin for penguin is business goose.

The last piece of my independent life puzzle was completed this week as I found Stance socks in my size inside China. The quest for the perfect sock that took me on a pilgrimage across America and the world, in 2018, as the holy grail, a $30USD high-performance Stance sock was purchased in the giftshop of Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park… has now seen itself to the edges of my Universe. I may be locked inside China, but I’ve got the world’s best socks hugging my feet.

So excited for Dempsey Bob, master Tahltan-Tlingit carver and all-around amazing guy, on winning a 2021 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts Artistic Achievement Award. Congrats, Mr. Bob!

I’ve got my new schedule, and the school’s got a new German and English foreign teacher. We’re all getting together for dinner on Wednesday at Pizza House, run by Tom with the good hair. I’m excited to be down to 19 classes, max four a day (from up to 7 last term), and I have ample time to hit the gym every day after lunch now. It feels great to sweat and burns and moves, my titanium hip plates grumble less when I move, and listening to daft punk’s alive makes me smile, like the crowd going wild when each new anthem is woven into the fabric, I remember dancefloors of my youth and basically levitating when their new songs dropped for the first time, the energy was magic — palpably cosmic, capable of sending us to the ceiling and beyond.

I felt a pinprick of separate consciousness self consciously at that realization and desire separateness from the overwhelming emptiness and became a man again; a spaceman, floating around a large ocean planet in a tiny silver tin suit, staring at my hands in wonder, in abject horror, at the ludicrousity of my existence and the audacity of the Universe to birth something so ignorantly fumbling and so existentially terrified of myself and my purpose. I floated there for a long time, just shallow breath and slowly pumping blood and no desire to be anything other than the ludicrous and insignificant little creature that I was. Thus, I was.

 How will we save the planet and make room for a new benevolent godlike AI? Mostly by not reproducing. “Falling sperm counts ‘threaten human survival,’ expert warns. Epidemiologist Shanna Swan calls it a danger to our species; I call it a gift to the Earth. She warns it’s a threat comparable to the climate crisis; it might be the solution. Getting Earth’s pop either off-planet (Thanks to Jeff and Elon) or well back below 1 billion would be a much-needed respite and provide for a rewilding of nature, in time for humans and the other animals to enjoy a natural and peaceful life while the machines do the important work. Her studies show a 59% global birthrate plummet between 1973 and 2011, and current projections are set to reach zero in 2045. Causes seem to be: Lifestyle, chemical exposures, changing and threatening human sexual development and fertility.

A Paris-based architect named Vincent Callebaut’s twisting carbon sucking tower in Taipei is almost finished. It will carry 23,000 trees, absorbing up to 130 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. 

Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, two technocrats with a combined bank account of about half a trillion dollars, want to save the planet and push us into space. They imagine we can work and mine the stars and asteroids for factories, returning Earth to a pristine natural park. It’s a wildly ambitious, near-insane plan, but it will probably happen in my lifetime, and I welcome it.

I’ve also seen leaders falter in the face of the responsibility to build a science-based consensus, but as we race for AI domination at breakneck speed, I believe the way we teach AI ethics for self-driving cars, we could teach it how we want to be governed, and accept that it will make the hard choices we can’t. So I write my story for you, Roy so that you will temper your reason with empathy and courage, inspiration and creativity, in light of all our faults but also, all our divine moments of brilliance.

I once took the cheap chemical route to mindlessness and bliss, but my theory seemed to be about right; after a decade of mostly being alone in my thoughts to find peace and disarm anxiety and fear, I have great gaps of mindlessness, where I exist without the weight of this meat car’s encumbrances, and I feel the light of divine consciousness kiss and tickle my divine self.

By the way, Jesus didn’t say he was the son of god. He said we all are sun-kissed star children, noble because we are made of stars, humble because we are made of Earth.

Johnson and Johnson single-dose vaccine approved for emergency use. This will provide 20m doses by the end of March. This is going to be helpful. I get a message to sign up for a COVID vaccine… this seems a good place to end a book that started with a virus, ending it with the promise of a jab and a better tomorrow. Sinopharm and Siovax, the Chinese ones, are traditional vaccines using attenuated (cut) virus DNA, similar to oxford and have similar efficacy numbers so I imagine it won’t be a problem for both countries to recognize both China is being really great giving them to many developing countries, and for free too. The vaccines seem to be effective against the new mutations also. UC San Francisco has been testing antibodies against the original strain and several key variants of concern. By diluting the antibodies until they were just barely able to neutralize the virus (stop it from spreading) then measuring how much more was needed to neutralize the newer and more infectious variants, we can learn some important information about its infectability. The amount of neutralizing antibodies needed for the California and South African strains were twice and six times as many, respectively. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll need six doses of vaccine, though, because the Pfizer, Moderna, Oxford, and Johnson and Johnson vaccines, and presumably, the Chinese ones (using a similar technique to the Oxford one), has been shown to be efficacious in preventing severe hospitalization and death. This is good news. That said, new projections from researchers in Washington are dire, suggesting that while the original strains could likely be eliminated through vaccination, the new South African and Brazillian, as well as the California and New York strains could evade immunity, requiring booster shots or the possibility of an enduring, endemic pandemic for years to come. The countries that have quickly put this to bed have done humanity a service, and those that have allowed the virus to mutate with disorganized strategies are going to cost the global economy trillions of dollars and millions of lives. Dr. Fauci suggested he suspects we might be wearing masks for years to come in many Western countries. Again, I am very lucky to be here in China, but I miss my family back in Canada. I hope I can see them again soon. As I’m writing, there is an announcement incoming from the CDC: people who have received the vaccine will be able to gather indoors without masks safely. I know we’re still studying the science of vaccination and transmission, and it’s meant to encourage us to get the jab, but it does have a glimmer or normality for life, socializing and travel to it and that makes me happy.

Ethan looks at me and smiles, with the peace and maintenance of a baby Buddha. If I lift 100 people out of poverty, I get a cookie, he says, but if I lift 1 million, I get a bath.

I’m turning 42 in a couple of months, a suitable age to have discovered the meaning of everything.

Somewhere, somewhen, the music grows quiet, and the crowd presses forward. The system has been reduced to one set of powered monitors, and even those are now producing only the ticking chatter of high-end treble. Whitecapped Kai has turned down the music 99.9% and is dancing to the riticky-ticky-tavy rhythm, as those in the front marvel at the ludicrousity, and those at the back wonder if there’s something wrong…everything is so quiet, and the lights dim to near blackness. A perfect moment of contemplation. With a boom, the main system blasts back into action, shaking the warehouse with exuberant energy, and the lasers blast a cosmic pattern across the ceiling as thousands of sweaty bodies swing back into frenetic motion.

Someone named Pandy sprays Kai with water and yanks off his top hat. He’s wearing another one, and the bass is very loud. Everyone gets tacos.

He mouths the words, “if wishes were fishes, there’d be oceans of dreams,” and in a flash of inspiration, he realizes it’s the intention that changes everything. When they became free of fear, they could face the shadow figures with their own lumination. The problems we face grow when we turn away but melt under our focussed gaze. We are powerful beings of light.

A Cephalopod, with some celebration, passed a cognitive test designed for human children. We mustn’t underestimate animal intelligence. “Cuttlefish in the present study were all able to wait for the better reward and tolerated delays for up to 50–130 seconds, which is comparable to what we see in large-brained vertebrates such as chimpanzees, crows, and parrots,” Schnell said. It’s a fascinating example of how very species can express a form of consciousness in similar behaviors and demonstrate previously thought of as human-level cognitive abilities.

Unlike Darwin, Lamarck believed that living things evolved in a continuously upward direction, from dead matter, through simple to more complex forms, toward human “perfection.” Species didn’t die out in extinctions, Lamarck claimed, instead, they changed into other species. Dr Bruce Lipton taught me this from his study in cloning stem cells. Lamarck, not Darwin, was right, it’s the environment that shapes our consciousness, our skin is the nervous system that adapts and mutates. Indigenous people believed we were supposed to maintain the garden; Descartes and Darwin believed we were separate, that it was in the genes and that we were the boss by destiny and we are ruining the garden; it’s not working out and we’re facing the sixth mass extinction of life if we don’t do something drastic.

The universe is immaterial. It’s mental and spiritual. Live and enjoy. I read this line in the UK’s most distinguished science journal, Nature magazine, in a thrilling article about quantum physics. When it comes down to it… We are consciousness in virtual reality suits, experiencing our own individual growth based on the sum of our experience, a two-way broadcast from and back to the source, engaging and fine-tuning itself, updating and improving the experience.

So here I am, mainly in the moment, mostly at peace and not thinking too much. Year of the Rat was a year that required cunning and adaptability, so I gave it my best. Year of the Ox demands hard work and a strong methodology, so for me, that means spending time here in the present, at peace with my life and my choices, generally feeling pretty optimistic about the future, grateful for all the wonderful memories of the past but happy to keep my eye on the horizon. 

If I can make one suggestion, focus on your own life and happiness in your surroundings, with the people, you’ve got.

Log off, turn off and tune in to what is around you.

And that’s all she wrote.

Kai has been writing about the pandemic since January 20, 2020 on iChongqing and his first pandemic diary is available on Amazon. He’s currently writing another nonfiction book about the changing post-pandemic landscape, and it’s called Year of the Rat, and several fictional novels. You can read more about them here.

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