Monday, July 31, 2006

On Nescience

On Nescience

By John Taylor; 2006 July 21

The word for the day that shot out the email pipe yesterday was:

Nescience \NESH-uhn(t)s; NESH-ee-uhn(t)s\, noun: Lack of knowledge or awareness; ignorance.

The sample sentence was this:

"The ancients understood that too much knowledge could actually impede human functioning -- this at a time when the encroachments on global nescience were comparatively few." -- Cullen Murphy, "DNA Fatigue", The Atlantic, November 1997

I like this word. Nescience is not the same as ignorance, which is a bad thing. Nescience is not necessarily bad or good. It is not the same as innocence, though. Innocence is always a good thing. Nescience is neutral. Many horrors in this veil of tears we are better off not knowing. They make nescience a good thing, they turn it into innocence.

Yesterday I was going through some old National Geographic's being sold off for our library's annual book sale, and one cover photo from an edition put out in the early 1990's shocked and hurt. It was for an article about the illegal trade in wildlife and depicted a large group of foxes, saved by the authorities from poachers but still doomed to be destroyed because of disease. I guess of all animals, I love foxes most. Now I wished I had never seen that, I long for nescience. A similar photo a few years ago of dogs in China being carted off for slaughter for human consumption, piled one on top of the other in a barbed wire cage, that too shocked me viscerally. That too I wish I had never seen.

In fact only three images I remember tearing my heart out, and all three were photographs, those two from National Geographic and a third I saw over twenty years ago in Quebec in a magazine. It depicted the Yanomamo tribe's favorite method of execution, impalement. Funny, two out of the three pictures were of animals. When I think of all the bloodshed I have seen in horror films and in the news, only these three photographs shocked me deeply enough to shake me even now whenever I think of them.

I lately heard a Western intellectual express admiration for the Muslim banishment of images from sacred sites. We are inundated by images, he said, we are drowning in them. The fact that we become calloused and indifferent to them only diminishes our humanity. How nice it would be to have a place without images to flee to when it becomes too much. Muslims are not the only ones. The Jews also banish religious depictions and icons. I read an interview in the Toronto Star with the architect of the Chile House of Worship, and he mentioned that images and symbols are forbidden on the inside of a Mashriq. It seems, then, that the images on the Wilmette Temple are an exception. In any case, in future Baha'is will repair every morning to a temple free of images and symbols.

I think the Sabbath is similar to the banishment of idols in spirit. Like a good night's sleep, a day of rest once in seven banishes the crushing image of work for a time. It allows the mind to turn away from the bombardment of images, fixed habits, received ideas, and allows it to begin to make its own images, habits and ideas. Original, genuine ones. After a rest day we can start the next week with a clean slate, see it from a fresh perspective.

Important as work is, it is a means to an end, not an end in itself. It is very easy to become attached to one's job, to turn it into your religion. Think of the lobbyists and pressure groups who spend millions corrupting the political process, and why? So that they can continue the work they are doing right now, no matter what, whether it benefits humanity or not. How hard is it to get a new job? It is not like it will kill you. But without a Sabbath that is just what work addicts come to believe. What I do is my life. A turn in another direction, or a new source of investment income, would be the same as death and I must avoid it at all costs.

The Sabbath, then, is an institution designed to break the habit of allowing work to impede service, to reduce our tendency to become addicted, not only to a particular job, but to any habit. I just read that some forty percent of patients treated for alcoholism in the Betty Ford Clinic immediately switch their addiction to illicit drugs. Many others turn to a compulsive hobby such as painting or basket weaving.

As the Hidden Words imply, addiction and compulsive behavior are nothing but the effects of withdrawal from worship and acts of devotion. We need regular religious expression profoundly. It is in our nature, we love and need it more than we know. We were built to know, but also for nescience. This is why Muslims and Baha'is prohibit alcohol completely, for alcohol offers a one way ticket to nescience, without need for worship or ritual. It depresses the brain chemically, and changes it forever. Looking at a picture does this too, it changes us, it sends our brain waves undulating in ways that we may or may not want them to go.

I think it is no coincidence that both `Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi attended the new medium of the cinema and that both walked out before the showing finished. By doing that I do not think they were condemning the whole medium (otherwise they would never have gone in the first place), but they were protecting their own brain waves from direct outside influence. And Abdu'l-Baha was our exemplar. Even for Him, images were dangerous. Just sitting back and taking in any image that anybody wants to put there is not acceptable. We have a right to shut them down, to walk out. for images change us, for better or worse. As Jesus said, "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out."

Probably for the same reasons, over a year ago I renounced watching commercial television. I realized two things, one I was putting my own time and brain up for sale. They are not for sale. Both time and brainpower are limited, and especially my frail and fluttery brain. Two, I was subjecting myself to values and images promiscuously.

Commercial images seem innocuous but they have a profound, lasting effect on their listeners. I try to be open minded but I do not hold to any and all values, especially prepared ones shot at me at the speed of light, frozen images that, whether I want it or not, stay, abide, resurface. I found that it was impossible to be chaste as long as I subjected myself to the flood of these images. Why expose yourself to random images -- much less carefully prepared ones -- that you did not ask for? I am unchaste enough as it is without having panderers plant provocative pictures directly into my brain? A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Only now, after two years of freedom from the image masters, only now am I learning to shut down the flood and feel peace from nagging passions provoked by carefully planted image seeds.

But I still cannot escape. Everybody around me is a media slave. I learned this talking to average people at the Philosopher's Cafe. If you plucked a slave out of Rome or the Antebellum South you would hear the same thing that I was hearing from them. No matter what you talk about, "my master" incessantly would turn up in conversation. "Massa no want that..." Master this, master that. Talk about anything and right away these modern sophisticates who have never called anybody master in their lives would immediately spout: "Oh, the media wants us all to think this..." "I hate it but we are programmed by the media to think this way." "That would not serve their needs." For them is no other way to think but their way, and their sole agenda is ruled by it. What we are going to talk about whether I want to or not, is the master's agenda. When I hear these modern slaves talk for more than five minutes at a stretch I begin to long for peace, for quiet and to bathe in nescience.

John Taylor

Saturday, July 29, 2006


Metademocracy; This is Not a Cause

By John Taylor; 2006 July 29

"This is not a Cause which may be made a plaything for your idle fancies, nor is it a field for the foolish and faint of heart. By God, this is the arena of insight and detachment, of vision and upliftment, where none may spur on their chargers save the valiant horsemen of the Merciful, who have severed all attachment to the world of being. These, truly, are they that render God victorious on earth, and are the dawning-places of His sovereign might amidst mankind." (Kitab-i-Aqdas, para 178, p. 84)

This passage I picked out of the Aqdas to memorize when I witnessed a friend and scholar of the Faith, Joe Woods, using it (and many other such passages) to good effect in both formal talks and casual conversation. So from time to time I return and re-memorize it ... long ago I gave up feeling frustrated when a memorization bounces out of my head; easy go, easy come back in, I say now. It is true, now it only takes a few readings and a little practice to glue in what I call the "horseman" quote.

I am reading a fat biography of William Osler right now, by most accounts the greatest physician in history. It is so long a book that I have not even got to his life yet, just his father's, who had an interesting life too. As an Anglican clergyman, it is startling to read how the elder Ostler also promoted massive memorization of scripture among the backwoodsmen of Canada's frontier in the 1840's and 50's -- amusingly, the place now swallowed by Toronto's sprawl, Newmarket, south of Barrie. Ostler had plowmen turning away from driving their teams and spinsters from their spinning to study selected passages from the Bible for memorization. Ostler handed out large numbers of scriptural knowledge prizes at the Church's annual picnic. His own saintly character rubbed off on his son -- curing people seems to be as much a spiritual as a scientific talent. Though not trained as a doctor he saved enough lives by observation and common sense that it became the practice among his parishioners to come to him before following doctor's orders.

Anyway, as I did my rememorizing of the horseman passage this morning it seemed almost unfamiliar this time around. Reason being, for the past few days I have been wading through "Introducing Kant" -- a non-fiction comic book about Kant's philosophy. It is by far the toughest comic I have ever cracked, I must say. Unlike many prose books on Kant this does not flinch, it explains in exquisite theoretical detail what Kant was after in his decade-long "critical" project, the Critique of Pure Reason, the Critique of Judgment, and so forth.

My mind stretched to the breaking point by what can only be called an "extreme philosopher" I get insight into what a believer in Baha'u'llah is about. He does not play around, he becomes a mounted knight determinedly entering a life or death contest. Since he is mounted, we can assume that this is a jousting arena, a medieval tournament. In order to get there he must be completely "severed of all attachment to the world of being." What is "world of being" but the abstruse subject of metaphysics?

Victory in the tournament of the Cause confers the right to act as a "dawning-place" of God's Might, to identify relative freedom with absolute Might, which releases brighter emanations of the divine Will. Faith is ability to act as a "dawning place" or sunrise point. This is an inherently A Priori contest, it takes place before the formation of heart or mind. Faith is a critical project, then, like Kant's. It divides heart and mind from outer causes and events, as by the horseman's sword. Severance cuts these faculties off from "attaching" to how outer events play themselves out.

To get into the divine field the "horseman" must prove himself "valiant," that is, he suffers testing. He suffers the assaults of changes and chances, of coincidence that is not coincidence, as Myrtle did in her adventures. A knight was chivalric, he stood for a set of ruling values fighting back the forgetfulness of the dark ages. Such mounted soldiers were always nobles, picked fighters; in modern military terms they are called, depending on what army you are in, commandos, paratroopers, seals, storm or shock troops. In modern armies such elite troops play a central role and they are chosen for intelligence as well as physical strength and courage. When the army is God's army, you can bet that the leader will chosen out of merit, not for noble birth alone, though that is part of leadership too. Here is what the Master has to say about this total meritocracy.

"So also, when the head of the army is unrivaled in the art of war, in what he says and commands he does what he wishes. When the captain of a ship is proficient in the art of navigation, in whatever he says and commands he does what he wishes. And as the real educator is the Perfect Man, in whatever He says and commands He does what He wishes. "In short, the meaning of `He doeth whatsoever He willeth' is that if the Manifestation says something, or gives a command, or performs an action, and believers do not understand its wisdom, they still ought not to oppose it by a single thought, seeking to know why He spoke so, or why He did such a thing." (Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, 174)

In this passage too there is more than meets the eye. Here I see the next step in the evolution of democracy. The Master is more or less commenting on certain passages in Plato that deal with the captain of the ship, that is, the expert in command. Like an army, a ship's captain makes life and death decisions for everybody on board, and it is suicidal to question his authority, especially during a storm, the crisis period when lives are most in danger. Very few philosophers understand what Plato was after by his ship's captain comparisons, they say he was a philosopher and naturally he was all for the leadership of a philosopher king. They make that mistake because they have not factored in the above commentary by the Master.

In any case, the next step in democratic evolution is what I am going to call multi-tiered meritocratic elections. This is modeled by the administration of the Baha'i Faith. Basic is the belief that no longer can power rest in one expert, that many heads are better, and most to the point, more incorruptible, than one. And even so, day to day operations are still put in the hands of a general secretary, who is like a CEO is to the board of directors (the UHJ's comparison, not mine). The philosopher king in this age must work on, through, and obey a committee, for only a Divine Manifestation can take power into the hands of one individual, and look how much He suffers! Other derived principles come out of that. You know the drill. Instead of nominations, we have multi-level elections. On a national level, we vote in delegates and they vote in the National Spiritual Assembly; they in turn elect the UHJ. Elections are silent, free of campaigning or electioneering, and open to any member of the Faith in the jurisdiction. Electing electors is a startlingly original innovation! Call it "meta-democracy."

As a sort of scientific addendum to this faith model, compare the discoveries reported in Surowiecki's "Wisdom of Crowds" of how large numbers of people, voting freely and openly, always make the best possible guess about partial unknowns. I guess enough people have read that book for journalists to start reporting the popular guesses about who will win upcoming sports events. Although I do not follow sports normally, in early spring I read that the popular choice to win the World Cup of Soccer this summer was Italy. Following events sporadically and being around soccer fans now that my kids are playing it, I could have easily won some bets as to who would win the tournament based upon that astonishingly dependable popular prediction alone. Surowiecki's is a revolutionary finding about how human intelligence is amplified in a free, unbiased election.

Combined with the above Baha'i-Platonic model, a meta-democracy that takes advantage of crowd wisdom will surely make decisive changes to future governance. I see the day coming when highly technical decisions will be decided "multi-tier democratically," completely independently of bureaucratic setups, simply by taking guess votes, by setting opinion "stock exchanges" where those concerned bet on certain outcomes, and at a certain stage by having all the experts in the area vote in committees of experts who in turn appoint the executives and trustees who carry out the daily operations of the project.

Let us say that our town wants to know whether to build a wind tower or a solar collector in a given location. That is a perfect job for local decision making. The usual questions that come up are: who is to decide? Who is to pay? What is lost? What long term effects will this have on the environment? Who benefits? How much should we allocate for this task? If you want to know the answer to these confusing and mutually contradictory questions, read Jane Jacob's chapter in Dark Age Ahead on "Dumbed Down Taxes." Here is a work of genius if ever I saw one. Her thesis is simple but powerful. Europe recovered from the Dark Ages that set in after the fall of the Roman Empire by instituting local fiscal principles of subsidiarity and fiscal accountability.

"Subsidiarity is the principle that government works best -- most responsibly and responsively -- when it is closest to the people it serves and the needs it addresses. Fiscal accountability is the principle that institutions collecting and disbursing taxes work most responsibly when they are transparent to those providing the money." (Dark Age, 103)

She carries this forward in the chapter to a climactic interview with then Prime Minister Paul Martin, himself a known financial (though not necessarily political or moral) genius. The way she demolishes his arguments and sees behind his motives is a tour de force to behold, her finest hour. A while back I spent a great deal of time studying the Canadian constitution, but I never noticed what she points out is *not* in there, the above two basic fiscal principles of responsible, responsive government. Amazing. These twin principles should and must be put into every constitution; after all, they got the world out of the Dark Ages, they are part of the chivalric code that those knights in shining armor were standing up for. Mount your chargers, O heroes of humankind!

Let me close with a prayer to the God of local government. It is found, not coincidentally, at the end of Plato's great work on metaphysics, the Pheadrus.


Phaedr. I will; and now as the heat is abated let us depart.
Soc. Should we not offer up a prayer first of all to the local deities?
Phaedr. By all means.
Soc. Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place, give me beauty in the inward soul; and may the outward and inward man be at one. May I reckon the wise to be the wealthy, and may I have such a quantity of gold as a temperate man and he only can bear and carry. -- Anything more? The prayer, I think, is enough for me.
Phaedr. Ask the same for me, for friends should have all things in common.
Soc. Let us go.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Credentialism Again

Credentialism Again

By John Taylor; 2006 July 27

My midsummer output has been slowed by having the kids around all day and by the heat wave. We do not have air conditioning and I got into the habit of fleeing to the cool Dunnville Library in the afternoon. For days the heat slowed me down to a crawl and exercising seemed too much of a chore. Gradually, I fell back into my normal sedentary routine. Big mistake. With a change in the weather, I was hit by a major or "grand-mal" migraine attack, the only one for at least six months. I had been starting to feel invulnerable. I recovered with a renewed determination not to relent in this new active lifestyle. My reading suffers, as I spend almost all my time working my body, playing soccer, walking, cutting the lawn, playing table tennis. As a result, my writing suffers too, but everything must come second to health.

In my last mail-out, a review of Jane Jacob's Dark Age Ahead, I wrote:

"Credentialism is the result in education of a fearful society prepared to fund any program, no matter how ambitious or wrongheaded, if it will only bring about more credentials for more jobs..."

Jim my spiritual father, not Jimbo, my old college buddy, wrote: "John - Are you saying courses that are skill-based (are) of limited value?" Not exactly. I have been thinking about this as I run around non-stop, and I think what Jane Jacobs is saying is that anything but science-based credentials are useless, not necessarily skill-based ones. A particular skill may have more or less value on the job marketplace, but a credential is a measure only of how much time you spent in school. Expertise and credentials are not necessarily linked. The latest Scientific American Magazine has a terrific article about this very thing, and it is available free online at:

"The Expert Mind," By Philip E. Ross. The mental processes of chess grandmasters are unlike those of novices, a fact that illuminates the development of expertise in other fields  <>

The article narrows in on chess because it is so easy to measure expertise in that game. My rating, no matter how much or how little I play, is that of a club player, somewhere between 1600 and 1800. Expert level is 2000, I think. I hit a plateau as a teenager and, though I spent prodigious time studying, never went beyond it. The astonishing thing that this article shows is that those who do go on to become grandmasters do not necessarily have more or less natural ability, they are just well taught, they have been given the right amount of challenge over a brief time. They know more about the right patterning that enables you to win. The same is true of any skill, music, mathematics, whatever, properly taught one can go way beyond the average level of skill in a short period of time, which is to say, eight hours a day for ten years. Mozart was so far ahead of his peers, for example, because he started his decade of study so early, around the age of two or three.

But want I call your attention particularly to this paragraph, which points out areas of expertise where credentials mean nothing:

"Without a demonstrably immense superiority in skill over the novice, there can be no true experts, only laypeople with imposing credentials. Such, alas, are all too common. Rigorous studies in the past two decades have shown that professional stock pickers invest no more successfully than amateurs, that noted connoisseurs distinguish wines hardly better than yokels, and that highly credentialed psychiatric therapists help patients no more than colleagues with less advanced degrees. And even when expertise undoubtedly exists--as in, say, teaching or business management--it is often hard to measure, let alone explain."

We could point to many other areas where credentials are not the same as expertise. Take religion: the pettiest pastor is better qualified as a Christian than Jesus, the humblest Mullah has better credentials as a Muslim than Muhammad, and so forth. Credentials measure schooling in religion, not the ability to move hearts to love one another, which is what religion is for. Most schooling does not even try to teach love, but it does strive after a good grounding in science. That is the problem, credentials do not necessarily measure scientific capability either. And that is just what worries Jane Jacobs. I therefore want to devote the rest of this mail-out to an excerpt from Dark Age Ahead that shows exactly what she is talking about and as a bonus it explains why they have recently reduced the number of one way streets in the city I drive in most often, Hamilton, Ontario.

The scientific state of mind is a major marvel in its own right. Sometimes it slips up, either in the interest of preserving an unfit paradigm or because it has fallen asleep. These lapses are not as nefarious as betrayals of science that are motivated by greed or pursuit of power, but nevertheless they are dangerous, perhaps the more so because they do not necessarily signal their dishonesty with obviously ugly immorality. The enemy of truth is untruth, whatever its motivation. Even high-minded "scientific" untruth always exacts costs, and often they are large and ramified beyond all preliminary calculation.

I am now going to relate a few illustrative instances in which the scientific state of mind has been betrayed and science abandoned, while those carrying out the ugly deeds pretend that nothing of the kind has happened and perhaps do not realize themselves what they have done, since they have probably lost the memory of the state of mind they have lost.

My first example is a lapse in a minor branch of engineering known as traffic engineering or traffic management. It is a lapse of practical importance because it wastes the time of many drivers, contributes to pollution, wastes land and energy, and is the most active single cause of community destruction discussed in Chapter 2.

Engineering has an honorable and long pedigree as a science. Most of the sporadic evidences of a scientific state of mind that go back to time immemorial are revealed by feats of engineering. In part, this is owing to the solidity and durability of such achievements as the Roman aqueducts, the pyramids in Egypt and in what is now Latin America, and the domes, arches, and seawalls of classical construction. Today our safety is constantly in the keeping of structural engineers, aeronautical engineers, electrical engineers, chemical engineers, mechanical engineers, hydraulic engineers, and nuclear engineers. We trust the scientific integrity of these people. If we didn't, we'd go crazy. Many branches of civil engineering owe their starts to military engineering in the service of mounting sieges or withstanding them. This military strand in the pedigree has contributed to the profession a proud touch of unstinting, responsible, and even heroic service.

Given this enviable professional background, plus the extreme tendency of North Americans to admire scientific achievement and give it the benefit of the doubt, it is little wonder that traffic engineers have been trusted to do pretty much as they please, and that departments of public works have gratefully accepted and followed their recommendations for design and specifications of streets and roads.

In what traffic engineers have chosen to do and have recommended, they have abandoned and betrayed science as it is understood. "Engineering" also has an opprobrious connotation of manipulation without regard for truth, as in "engineering consensus," or "It looked spontaneous, but it was engineered." It is popularly assumed that when universities give science degrees in traffic engineering, as they do, they are recognizing aboveboard expert knowledge. But they aren't. They are perpetrating a fraud upon students and upon the public when they award credentials in this supposed expertise.

In the mid-1950s, I was one among thousands of New York citizens trying to save Washington Square, the major Greenwich Village community park, from bisection by a limited-access expressway, or reduction to a traffic circle by a circumferential expressway. After staving off both these threats in sequence, our community movement discarded its defensive stance and insisted aggressively that a two-lane carriage road bisecting the square be closed to all but emergency traffic such as ambulances and fire trucks. We now saw that this formerly harmless relic of the horse-and-buggy age was a potential Trojan horse that could be trotted out as a precedent for any kind of road ruination of the park and community.

When a test closing of the carriage road became imminent, the traffic commissioner told us that traffic is like water: if it is dammed up or diverted from its course in one place, it will find other outlets where it meets less resistance. To close off the carriage road without providing a new road would, he predicted, inundate all the narrow streets in the park's vicinity with thwarted traffic and belching fumes, threatening the safety of children to the point that they couldn't even reach the park. He predicted that we would come back to him on our knees, begging for a road.

His dire predictions did not come true. Nowhere did traffic increase. Indeed, traffic counts were slightly down in the park's vicinity. The test closing was so successful that, without more ado, it was made permanent.

Where did the vanished traffic go? This was a new question that emerged unexpectedly. But it was not pursued. It was ignored in favor of a vague notion that some drivers must have chosen less frustrating routes, or else switched to public transit; or maybe some oddballs walked.

More than thirty years later, my Toronto neighborhood was divided over the question of how to frustrate drivers who, to avoid the traffic lights on a main street, used a parallel quiet street as a speedway, zipping unhindered by traffic lights through intersections. Some residents wanted to thwart those drivers by changing the direction of the quiet street (from one-way north to one-way south) on a block partway up the route. Other residents, perhaps a majority, feared that thwarted traffic would inundate their nearby streets. Some wanted nothing done, supposing that any attempted remedies would make matters worse. Still others advocated elaborate and expensive studies of possible traffic mazes throughout the community; others were chastened by the unfortunate experiences of a nearby neighborhood for which an elaborate professional study had been done, leaving everyone dissatisfied. People were getting very angry at one another. Accusatory petitions were bouncing around. Staff members of the city's traffic and public works departments were present at a neighborhood meeting to offer advice. Our local elected council member was present, keeping his ear to the ground.

To my astonishment, as the meeting got under way, I heard from the professional staff the same lecture, almost word for word, that I had heard three decades earlier in New York: that traffic is like water and will find an outlet offering less resistance. If it is diverted or dammed it will inundate other streets.

I thought sadly, "Here they are, another generation of nice, mis-educated young men, about to waste their careers in a fake science that cares nothing about evidence; that doesn't ask a fruitful question in the first place and that, when unexpected evidence turns up anyhow, doesn't pursue it; a science that hasn't been building up a coherent body of knowledge that organizes its own direction by grace of the succession of questions it opens." Fortunately, the public present at the meeting cared about evidence. I described what had happened at Washington Square, and the community agreed to test a change in street direction. The professional staff made it clear they didn't like this decision, but the local councilman picked up the idea of the test and apparently overruled the credentialed professionals.

Much the same thing happened as in New York. I don't know whether total traffic counts dropped. No counts were evidently made, or at least reported. But no other streets were inundated by thwarted traffic, and speeding traffic wonderfully decreased on the rescued street, on which I live. It seemed to decrease throughout the neighborhood. Dammed traffic did not overflow into channels of less resistance; it was successfully confined to its appointed channel. Again, the water hypothesis to explain traffic flow had been discredited by the real world. But once again, reasons why it was wrong were not investigated.

However, at long last, other people in the world noticed that unexpected evidence was turning up. My brother, a retired chemical engineer, sent me a clipping from the February 16, 1998, issue of Chemical & Engineering News about a study reported in The New Scientist. A research team at University College, London, had analyzed-for London Transport and Britain's Department of the Environment, Transport, and the Regions-sixty cases, worldwide, in which roads had been closed or their carrying capacity reduced. The principal finding of the study was forthrightly reported:

Planners' models assume that closing a road causes the traffic using it to move elsewhere .... The study team ... found that computer models used by urban transportation planners yield incorrect answers .... [W]hen a road is closed, an average of 20% of the traffic it carried seems to vanish. In some cases they studied, as much as 60% of the traffic vanished. Most of the cases studied involved urban areas, but the same arguments may apply away from urban areas, New Scientist reports. The report at hand is a logical extension to a 1994 finding that building new roads generates traffic. If that's the case, "then the closure of roads is bound to cause less traffic," according to London-based transport consultant Keith Buchan.

The item added, mentioning no further investigation or evidence, that "traffic vanishes because commuting habits are so variable .... Flexibility helps people cope with road closures .... Experts ... suggest that government should stop worrying about causing vehicular congestion by pedestrianizing sites."

Thwarted drivers again, making choices. How do traffic engineers know that, or think that they do? This incurious profession pulls its conclusions about the meaning of evidence out of thin air-sheer guesswork-even when it does deign to notice evidence. By the time I read this clipping, I had begun to wonder whether missing traffic-meaning cars and their occupants-actually did vanish or if, instead, only some of their traveling on the roads vanished. The repeated phenomenon of vanished traffic suggested that possibly some characteristics common to the closed roads themselves, rather than the drivers on the roads, might account for vanished traffic. Not an answer to the mystery, but perhaps worth investigating.

I am in no position to do traffic research. I don't drive, nor do I own a car. I have no little cables that will register each time a car runs over their piece of roadway. In recent years I have had a disability that prevents me from walking a distance. When I go to a destination in downtown Toronto, I take a taxi. But, as luck would have it, a taxi has turned out to be an admirable tool for helping me indulge my curiosity.

When I travel from the airport to a downtown micro destination, one part of the trip can be along an elevated, limited-access highway on the southern perimeter of downtown, between the city and Lake Ontario. The highway has several on- and off-ramps, feeding from and into the city's grid of streets.

On my way, I watch the taxi meter clicking and counting.

Along the expressway stretch, the trip seems economical. I am getting quite a bit of distance for my money. Then I hit a choke point at an exit ramp, and from then on everything changes. The rest of my trip is very expensive. Considering what it is costing me, I am getting very little distance. I am not complaining about this. As research, it is economical. What worries me, rather, is the expensive burden on the city, and the planet, of the air pollution and urban road congestion that the expensive part of my trip is registering.

The driver must weave circuitously around a block, then around another block, and so on, to reach the correct side of the correct block of the correct street on which to deposit me. All the way to my micro-destination, from the moment we enter the street grid from the ramp, we are surrounded by delivery vans, other taxis, and private cars whose drivers are also circuitously attempting to reach their micro-destinations. Drivers who must park their cars while they attend a meeting, get a tooth filled, call on a customer, or attend to other downtown business go through an extra crawl to reach a garage or parking spot; so much the worse for them. Our joint circuitous congestion hampers all the others attempting to make use of the streets: public transit vehicles, pedestrians, bicycle couriers.

In vain, I long to leave the taxi and walk directly to my destination. The taxi can travel only indirectly. I mollify myself with the knowledge that my situation informs me of the identical situation of drivers with packages or couriered mail to deliver or cars to stash. Everyone in a vehicle has become a prisoner of the grid and the limited and indirect access to it in this exasperating system. How different it is from the free and convenient downtown grid I experienced when I could walk and could get unlimited access into it at every corner, not merely at arbitrary choke points.

It dawned upon me at length that two separate, major n1.isconceptions were buried in this mess.

Misconception One is expressed in the elevated limited-access highway and its ramps, whose designers should have asked themselves, "How can we help this great diversity of users reach their great diversity of micro-destinations most .. directly?" Instead, they apparently asked themselves, "How can people reach a macro-destination, downtown, most speedily?"

When my taxi enters the downtown grid from the north or west, which are not furnished with limited-access expressways, my trip within the downtown is so much more economical than when I enter the grid from the expressway at the south that the entire trip is more economical despite my avoidance of the small expressway stretch. How ironic that the ambitious, elevated behemoth of an expressway and its land-wasting ramps are counterproductive for drivers using the downtown. It would be a wonder if closing a road designed to express Misconception One didn't result in at least a 20 percent reduction in vehicular travel without a single vehicle actually vanishing.

Misconception Two is expressed in the NO LEFT TURN, NO STANDING (during busy hours), and ONE WAY, ONE WAY, and ONE WAY signs, the impediments forcing my driver all around Robin Hood's barn to reach a micro-destination. These impediments were contrived to keep vehicles out of one another's way and thus carry out the theme of a speedy trip. What a dream world! It would be a wonder if reducing these impediments didn't reduce congestion further after Misconception One's error was eliminated. One American mayor, John Norquist of Milwaukee, has made a start with such an experiment by eliminating one-way streets; he calls his city's popular program friendly driving.

The chief impediment in the double-barreled mess is obviously a cherished paradigm. In effect, somebody told traffic engineers and road designers that the journey matters more than the destination-an inappropriate analogy about a philosophical approach to life-and they believed it. In the background of this paradigm I see little boys with toy cars happily murmuring "Zoom, Zooom, Zooooom!"

The fact that university students in this so-called discipline are not informed of evidence that has long been available tells us that such evidence is uncongenial to their teachers. The cherished but deformed paradigm is poison that harms everything it touches-damaging community life; wasting time, energy, and land; polluting air; and vitiating the independence of countries with large oil reserves. This is also a "perfect" example of anti-science masquerading as the science it has betrayed: first it went wrong with a fruitless question based on misconception of purpose; a wrong hypothesis followed; next came ignored evidence; when the evidence could no longer be ignored, it was not seen as opening up further questions, and that failure killed off the traffic enterprise as a coherent, expanding body of knowledge.

In the meantime, each year students have poured forth from universities, a clear, harmful case of education surrendered to credentialism. One wonders at the docility of the students who evidently must be satisfied enough with the credentials to be uncaring about the lack of education. The credentials may indeed be a good investment for them but are not a good investment for society. That anxious parent at the forum (pAS) was well advised to worry about change in university education.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

My Ideal Neighborhood

My Ideal Neighborhood

By John Taylor; 2006 July 12

It is nigh on ten years since we bought this house. The first five years I was ambitious, did everything I could myself and read everything I could get my hands on about how to make the place better and more efficient. This was silly of me since I have almost zero budget to spend but it kept me busy at least. At one point I called in a local contractor to see if it would be possible to install some special type of heating system that I had heard about -- we are presently electrically heated. He probably knew right off that our house was not air tight enough but he knew the story of every house in town and seemed to be curious to see ours from the inside. He told me that the same Toronto contractors who built the townhouses behind us did our place as well, and that their sole object was to build houses as quickly and cheaply as possible, make a quick buck and then get out.

Somehow that invidious anecdote by a rival contractor stuck in my mind and refused to get out. My enthusiasm fell like a house of cards. Gradually I gave up on home improvement completely. For this second five years of our residence I did as little work as possible and dreamed of what can and should be done in home building. First of all, human dwellings should be owned and controlled collectively. Governments, local and higher, should be part owners with certain rights in decision-making. Owners should own only partly their own living space, and have shares in other parts of the neighborhood block. Renters and other temporary residents should gain credits, set aside from part of their rent which would be cashed in when they decide to own a permanent home. This would ease the transition into full shareholdership in a neighborhood. These shares would be transferable anywhere, so that if they move away they should be able to use these credits to become permanent homeowners anywhere else.

Our home is hopeless. It is a disaster area, like almost every other house that you see. The more I learned about the right way to build homes the more hopeless my house and every other house became. First of all, our home, though better than most in this respect, is still askew to the sun. I would have to put solar panels on two of the three sides of our roof at great expense and even then both faces would miss the sun for half the day. So the question grew in my mind: how might a house be built from the ground up for maximal benefit to residents and the environment?

The farmer should come first, as we all know. The inherent waste built into every home right now has to be eliminated. Converting the southern exposure of buildings to other primary uses cannot be an option. Solar energy is our cheapest and most available natural energy source. It falls on every square inch of the planet. The sun, therefore, must "own" its side of the building. Our houses, therefore, should be designed with the needs of farming first in mind. Farming should be going on in the closest possible proximity to housing. In fact, this would be not only cheaper and more efficient, it would also be much better for our health, as I shall explain presently.

Putting farmers and gardeners first would mean designing every home, apartment and housing block so as to take in the maximum amount of sunlight. The sunward side of residences would be treated as agricultural "land," with all the rights and legal protection that is now afforded to agricultural areas. It should be either leased out to local farmers or tended as communal gardens by residents themselves. If there are problems, other farmers could be hired or fired according to given criteria. If a roof turns out not to be economically viable for growing, its sunny space could be converted to solar panels but in no case would that resource be wasted.

I mentioned that mixing residential with agricultural land uses would be healthier. This I got out of an article in MacLean's Magazine called "The Allergy Epidemic" (June 5, 2006, p. 34). According to findings reported here, children raised from a baby with a dog in the home have a lower incidence of allergies and asthma, and farm children raised with domesticated animals all around have even lower incidence of autoimmune disease. Third World nations and the ghettos of richer nations are what the article calls "viper's nests of bacterial contamination" and yet this kind of health problem is almost unknown in these areas.

Having said that, I am exposing myself to the accusation of being a hypocrite. Our neighbor but one recently bought a chicken. She keeps it in a cage in their back yard with a sign proclaiming, "Cathy's Chicken." Now, from morn to evening I get to listen to "Mrep pep pep pep... Mrep pep pep pep pep..." It is not cluck, it is mrep pep. Anyway, I am well aware that keeping farm animals within city limits -- and Dunnville legally is considered a city --is against the bane of hillside housing, the all powerful zoning laws. I know this because Marie wanted to do the same thing, get a chicken, and we found out about that law and decided against it. I recently saw a film set in Africa, and there, at least in villages, chickens are allowed to wander freely, even in traffic. Cars do not even slow down for them and run right over them. As often as not the chicken runs away Scot free, albeit protesting very loudly and violently. Now I hate zoning laws, at least as they are now; but I also hate noise. So every day I ask myself, do I make a complaint about the noise, or do I live up to my principles and tolerate it like the Africans do?

Actually, this is not such a big problem as it seems. Noise canceling contraptions have been invented that actively dampen clucks and moos and neighs of domestic beasts. For every wave up on the sine curve, they pump out a wave down, rendering a noise source, be it machine or animal, silent. No longer is there an excuse to segregate agricultural and even industrial land uses from residential uses. And since there are many benefits from diversity, only a few of which I mention here, as much mixing as possible should be done ASAP.

A well designed hillside development would have barns built underground so that noise could not escape evenings and at night. Goats, sheep, chickens and cows might be allowed to pasture at local lawns and roofs only at times of the day when people are at work and then go to distant pasturage when residents are at home. Children, who benefit most from being around animals not only physically but psychologically, would be encouraged to tour the local barn and do chores there. Mostly, since local residents would be benefiting from this agricultural activity (not only from the food but also from the low-level exposure to anti-allergenic beasts) it would be known that it is in their interest to tolerate a modicum of noise and other inconveniences in order to gain greater diversity.

Local by-laws must reflect the consequence of farmers coming first. A hillside development, as I see it, would be the natural effect of reforming local building codes to reflect real human needs. Sunnyside greenhouses and so-called growing roofs (where grass is grown to feed ruminants or herbs to feed humans) need to be not only allowed but required by law.

Segregating agriculture has had terrible effects not only on society but agriculture itself. Being separate, farming has become industrialized, extremely smelly, loud and environmentally dangerous. This is very profitable for large corporations but bad for farmers and the public alike. Even as things are, certain organic farmers are finding that old ways are still the best ways. Some are even getting rid of their tractors and using horses to plow, plant and harvest crops again. By mixing farms into residences such environmentally friendly techniques would become obligatory.

Another feature of hillside developments would be interspersed towers. These would be used as farmers' silos, wind turbines and heat towers. I am a typical city person, though raised in rural areas, and I had no idea what silos are used for until I got an idle moment at a corn maze as the kids were fooling around somewhere else. I asked the farmer there why he did not have a silo and he explained that he did not have animals, he grew crops. I still did not understand. He went on, saying that when you have beef cattle you pile corn up to the rim of the silo and through the winter the farmer scrapes off a layer at a time to feed to the cows. I had no idea. So, if hillside housing did mix agriculture with residential there would have to be silos at every animal barn.

But silos and other cylindrical towers would have other uses as well. One use is as a heat tower, an ancient invention used originally in the deserts of Babylon and the Fertile Crescent. Heat towers were the original air conditioners. Such a tower at night draws off excess heat built up in a building during the day. With some tweaking, it could be adapted to accomplish more active air conditioning, all free and powered by the sun. In winter water can be pumped up high, frozen, and the ice cubes piped underground for cooling during the summer. A silo can also be used as a home base or hanger for a wind turbine; the generators and propellers would soar on a tower high above the silo, but when needed the whole assembly can be lowered into the silo for maintenance and shelter during high winds. When not used for that, silos have recreational uses as well. For example, a silo can have a large spiral water slide running around it, inside and out. It can be used as a neighborhood observation post, encouraging people to build physical activity into their daily routine as they climb up and down long spiral stairs in order to look at the panorama and meditate. Or a silo can be an airship dock; or if a dome is placed on its summit, it becomes a high flying stage or Imax cinema.

I also fantasize about mixing industrial activity into hillside developments. This too started in my garage, which though thrilling during the first five years, now also seems hopelessly inadequate during the second half of my tenure. I thought I might be interested in learning how to turn wood, so I bought a lathe and piles of material and equipment. I reached a certain level of skill and did not progress. Finally I lost interest and had to sell it all off in order to have room to do other things. Here is how it would work in a hillside housing development.

Not only houses but garages would be shared and communally owned and run. That is, a person interested in learning a manual skill would walk over to the local craft and hobby workshop where he or she would have the right to a certain work area. While you could buy your own tools, you would also have the option of leasing or borrowing tools and equipment for a trial period while you learn enough about the craft to know whether you want to continue or do something else. Similarly, professionals would be mixed in with amateurs so that informal teaching would be going on constantly. If I find that I ask a great number of questions to one expert, I might easily set up an informal apprenticeship with this craftsperson. Like the transition from renter to owner, there would be no hard divide between amateur crafts persons and professional journeymen, or between one person operations and large industrial operations.

In such a setup, I could donate my lathe to the local workshop and know that a neighbor is putting it to use and that someday, if one of my children takes an interest, I would still be able to access it in order to give them a quick introduction to woodturning. Plus I see open shops and communal craft guilds as a way to reverse the present trend of offloading manual labor from rich lands to the Third World. If this continues skilled trades will disappear and we will face collapse. Neighborhoods with communal guilds should introduce every child to a wide variety of skilled trades by welcoming these workers into their bosom.

What I think we need in order to make such communal garages and mixed use construction possible is not our present dichotomy between owner and dispossessed but, again, unity in a broad diversity, a full and moving spectrum between informal borrower, donor, renter, leaser and full owner. To do that we need what I have called consultative housing. And this in turn is dependent on a new form of democracy that might be called "merit-based, multi-level democracy." That will be the topic of the next essay.

John Taylor

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Matsek Cleans My Clock

Matsek Cleans My Clock

By John Taylor; 2006 July 18

I return to writing after several days called away. We had guests for the weekend, three Czech sisters with whom Marie lodged as a child, the daughters of her godmother's sister, and the husband of the eldest, Olga, whose name is Vashek -- I kept calling him Matsek, which means "kitty" in Czech, an error I regard as fortunate, since most of the Czech words I have picked up over my years as spouse of a Czech are somehow related to the bathroom. Matsek is working in Sherbrooke, Quebec, as a telecom programmer. Anyway, the highlight of the weekend for me were the table tennis matches with Matsek, who cleaned my clock, who cut me a new rectal sphinctor -- to clean up a favorite expression of Kurt Vonnegut -- by beating me five out of five games. He told me, in broken English, that his grandmother had a Ping-Pong table and in his youth he had several cousins to hone his skills against. He had a twisty, complex little serve that I could not figure out for the life of me.

The lowlight of the weekend was our toilet, and it was a very low lowlight. Consider that having my clock cleaned was the highlight and you know how low things got. All day Saturday I reluctantly drove back and forth from Canadian Tire, desperately trying to get it to work in time (I hate do-it-yourself stuff now, unlike when we first bought this house). They arrived before I get the job quite finished, so with four guests we had to make do without our upstairs toilet.

Worse, when we were in Niagara Falls yesterday Grampa decided that he would fix it for us. He failed. Worse still, his hearing is not what it used to be, so when we got back, tired and up to our elbows in cranky kids, we found the house flooded out. He thought that he had shut off the water but, his hearing not being what it used to be, it was only half shut off. We had very fortunately come back from the falls earlier than expected, otherwise the house would have floated away. Nor was that all. While at the falls I had taken a nap under a tree and some bold thief walked off with Silvie's scooter, which I had lain beside me.

I slept in a tent on the back lawn, an inconvenience that turned out for the best, since it was much cooler out there over this heat wave weekend. I woke very early and, the house being full of sleeping guests, I had no choice but to putter in the garage. This too was good, since I succeeded in cleaning off all of the junk covering the surface of the workbench. For the first time in many years I now have a free working space there, a tremendous relief. Strangely, the same part of the brain that I use for writing I also use for organizing junk, for making that tough decision, keep or toss? Okay, those who have a low opinion of my writing will not find this so strange. Anyway, for whatever reason, I cannot do that kind of cleanup task afternoons or evenings, just in the morning.

We returned from the Falls early not to save the house from flooding but in order to attend Thomas's Monday night atom level soccer game. He has turned out to be something of a star goalie for his team, though as a defenseman he is inattentive and apathetic. By my count in his half of the game in goal he made about a dozen saves and was scored against twice, and the team was leading. When he played defense for the second half it was a different story and the team lost miserably. The guests brought with them some jigsaw puzzles as a gift and to my surprise Silvie started at hers right away. Until now they have turned up their noses at jigsaw puzzles. She has hers almost solved, with help from the two younger Czech sisters.

These sisters turned out to be real beach bunnies. They insisted on going to the beach at every opportunity. Marie explained that the Czech Republic does not have any large bodies of water and Lake Erie is a change for them. I long ago gave up trying to drag the kids to the beach, but they went along without a peep and had a great time playing in the waves. Once I went into the bush to change out of my bathing suit and discovered a virgin raspberry patch. Thomas was thrilled and insisted on going back; we both enjoy the hunt for berries. I enjoy this more than fishing, which I did a lot of in my youth; berries are less work and you come away with a prize every time.

We kept forgetting to bring our camera to these events, so the guests offloaded their pictures to our computer just before they left this morning. Now we have a photographic record of a tourist's first views of Niagara Falls. I know, hardly unique in the world, but better than no pictures at all. The technology of cameras dazzles me still and I cannot get over the convenience of photo sharing.

I hope tomorrow to get back to something more serious than personal diary writing.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Seven Days and Seven Valleys, Part I

Seven Days and Seven Valleys, Part I

By John Taylor; 2006 July 14

Every day I try to be as physically active as I can, often struggling against waves of turpitude that strike with the overwhelming force of an ocean surf. My cornerstone exercise is practicing table tennis by hitting the ball against a wall and trying to return it. The harder I smash it the harder it is to return. This is the least boring of exercises, but it is still tedious, so I relieve the boredom of the repetition by listening to books on tape on a stereo that I hooked for our garage. The latest acquisition is a compilation of inspiring essays about spirituality by self-help gurus that I picked up at the Haldimand Library's annual summer book sale. The best of the essays is by the author of "Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," Kushner I think his name is.

Kushner describes in loving detail his ideal daily routine, a set of slow, relaxing rituals such as reading scripture morning and evening, holding hands with his wife and telling her that he loves her before they sit down to break bread, ending his day with reading something funny, that kind of thing. These he tries to work into his week at least four out of the seven days of the week. Most inspiring is to hear how taking the Sabbath seriously revives his soul. He takes his Sundays off work completely and does only soul-refreshing activities; since he is no longer a minister, he attends worship services at a variety of local church denominations, including the Greek Orthodox, whose rituals in a foreign language liturgy he finds relaxing. I was impressed by how his observance salves his week. I have decided, therefore, if I ever get over this anemia, that I will observe the Baha'i Sabbath, which of course is Friday, or Istiqlal (Independence).

In the meantime my compromise will be to spend Fridays writing about the Badi' calendar, starting today. As I went over my collected material on the Baha'i week this morning a strange speculation popped into my mind. How do the seven days compare with Baha'u'llah's Haft Wadi, or Seven Valleys? Let us juxtapose them:

1. Jalal - Glory (Saturday)  Valley one: search
2. Jamal - Beauty (Sunday)  Valley two: love
3. Kamal - Perfection (Monday)  Valley three: knowledge
4. Fidal - Grace (Tuesday)  Valley four: unity
5. 'Idal - Justice (Wednesday)  Valley five: contentment
6. Istijlal - Majesty (Thursday)  Valley six: wonderment
7. Istiqlal - Independence (Friday)  Valley seven: true poverty and absolute nothingness

The questions then arises, are there any scriptural connections between these virtues? Can states of the soul be connected with the virtues of the week by any kind of natural logic? Let us give her, as one of my teachers used to say, the "old college try."

The first day of the Baha'i week is Saturday, Jalal, or Glory, and the first valley is search. One rides through this valley on a "steed" of patience, we are told in the Haft Vadi. Certainly the quest for glory is never one of ease and relaxation. Nobody puts up statues for generals who won easy battles, and even the most skillful artists who live lives of ease never seem to be able to produce paintings worth more than a pittance. Patience in adversity seems by some iron law of the universe to be the prime requisite for success for every seeker after truth. Consider how Baha'u'llah Himself connects His own suffering and patience with the antipathy of those who are "the manifestations of My glory":

"Hearken unto My voice that calleth from My prison, that it may acquaint thee with the things that have befallen My Beauty, at the hands of them that are the manifestations of My glory, and that thou mayest perceive how great hath been My patience, notwithstanding My might..." (Baha'u'llah, Summons, 84, Epistle, 58)

Sunday is beauty day, Jamal, and the above citation from Baha'u'llah illuminates this tie as well. The connection between beauty and the valley of love could not be any more natural. If I love a woman, even should she appear to the world a snake-haired hag who transforms all beholders into stone statues, still my loving eyes will find beauty in her face. As in the ancient Greek myth, such a lover would say, "Your face transfixes everybody, my love, they are paralyzed by admiration. I would be too, except that I look into your reflection in my shield." And so it is with God, He is a sun that blinds all who behold directly His Godhead, for finite beings are not constructed for direct linkage with the Supreme Love. All that we can bear of the divine must be virtual, indirect, reflected love. Even at a hint of the direct Face we cry in the words of the Kaddosh, "He is other, other, other!" and are turned to stone. Consider the imagery in the first paragraph of the Haft Vadi's love valley,

"In this city the heaven of ecstasy is upraised and the world-illuming sun of yearning shineth, and the fire of love is ablaze; and when the fire of love is ablaze, it burneth to ashes the harvest of reason." (SVFV, 7)

This is why I get all riled up when people talk about "Baha'i theology," which I consider an oxymoron. Theology is the practice of theologians, theoreticians serving a professional clergy. There is no professional Baha'i clergy precisely for this reason: divine knowledge is not knowledge in the sense of any other knowledge. It knows us, we do not, we can not know it. It cannot be professionalized or exclusivized or be said to be here rather than there. Baha'i theology is an oxymoron, and the word "theology" is a paradox, at least it is as soon as you accept that God is an unknowable essence. In that sense Baha'is are much closer in their beliefs to atheists than to theologians, for arrogant ignorance is built into the very word "theology." Divine knowledge is for none and it is for all, but never for some rather than others. The shame of professional theology is that it is first, rather than last, to persecute the prophets and Manifestations. History demonstrates this, if we look at her victims, men turned to statues arrayed around Medusa, theologians are always in the first rank. So says Baha'u'llah, in almost as many words:

"From time immemorial the clay clods of the world have, wholly by reason of their love of leadership, perpetrated such acts as have caused men to err." (Epistle, 87)

Immanuel Kant, with uncanny prescience foresaw the division in Baha'u'llah's Order between administrators and the learned. In his peace sketch he added that while theology (I would say "knowledge of God," as opposed to professionalized theology) always leads and conditions lower forms of knowledge, it is not clear exactly how its primacy operates:

"The philosophical faculty occupies a very low rank against this allied power. Thus it is said of philosophy, for example, that she is the handmaiden to theology, and the other faculties claim as much. But one does not see distinctly whether she precedes her mistress with a flambeau or follows bearing her train." (Kant, Sketch of Perpetual Peace)

Next Friday I will turn from day two's love and beauty to day three, Monday, the day of perfection and knowledge.

John Taylor

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Oneness and Equality

Oneness and Equality

By John Taylor; 2006 July 12

Let us return today to the Oneness of God as manifested in the principle of equality of the sexes. The "Great Being" selection from the Tablet to Maqsud that seems most applicable is the following:

"The Great Being saith: One word may be likened unto fire, another unto light, and the influence which both exert is manifest in the world. Therefore an enlightened man of wisdom should primarily speak with words as mild as milk, that the children of men may be nurtured and edified thereby and may attain the ultimate goal of human existence which is the station of true understanding and nobility." (Tablets, 173)

It is impossible intelligently to discuss issues dealing with equality of the sexes without being well grounded in our universal reasons for being, our common service as human beings, man or woman. This Great Being statement does just that.

Let us rephrase what Baha'u'llah says in reverse order. The ultimate purpose of men and women in life is to understand and be noble. We exercise this in our capacity as collective trustees of the best of the past. One generation is a loving parent to the next, the "children of men." Our first duty is to edify and nurture the younger generation by carrying forward knowledge, both our own and that gained from our forebears, and by perpetuating in them nobility, the product of adoration and worship of God. This duty to teach requires that one be a "man of wisdom," which means following the demands of peace and oneness every step of the way,

"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." (Matthew 10:16, KJV)

Wise action is spread by example and by means of speech, always has, always will be. There are two basic kinds of speech, one like fire and the other like milk, and the "influence which both exert is manifest in the world." What does that mean? Here I must pass from paraphrase to interpretation, and reluctant as I am to do that, this is such a crucial cornerstone to understanding the whole passage that I see no way to avoid it.

So, I take "fiery" speech to mean destructive, arbitrary orders born of the anger and patriarchal attitudes rampant in a tyranny, and "milky" speech is the kind, supportive words that come out of the mouth of a son or daughter of God, that is, someone acutely aware that we all live in a theocracy. When Baha'u'llah says that their comparative difference is "manifest in the world," he evidently means that we can clearly see the results of abusive language in people's psyches. We witness the most spectacular results in those who live on milk exclusively, babies. Tiny infants respond and develop much quicker when spoken to in a kind voice, and when verbally abused they suffer long-term harm.

Babies are an especially good example because they do not understand the literal meaning of the words they hear. They can be and often are only nonsense sounds (baby talk). But babes are highly sensitive to the attitudes and feelings behind the speaker's words. Similarly, it has been observed that in political fora most people look to their leaders for reassurance, not for data or technical details, far less further lies and promises, they just long for a feeling that they are not struggling for brute survival, that their lives of quiet desperation are not in vain, that everything will turn out all right in the end. This feeling, ultimately, can only be satisfied by God, and it is the duty of a responsible leader to make this clear, not to try to mesmerize with ideology or false hopes.

"And those on whom ye call beside God cannot create anything, for they are themselves created. Dead, not living, nor can they perceive!" (Q16:20)

Meanwhile, the results of words of fire in politics are also not hard to understand. Mao, Stalin and Hitler made ample use of fiery words and dead ideology to seize political power, and the result was murder on a scale unheard of in history, in the hundreds of millions.

Another user of words of fire was John C. Calhoun, who through his writings almost single-handedly brought about the secession of the South and the subsequent American Civil War, by far the bloodiest in the history of that country's long involvement in wars. I heard an interesting anecdote about Calhoun on what is becoming my favorite television show, History Detectives. It seems that two Confederate soldiers were sitting in trenches and one remembered that he had seen the monument to Calhoun, topped by the great man riding a horse. The other said that he never saw that but that they had both seen the real monument to Calhoun's memory, the piles of dead, dismembered and bloating bodies heaped on high all around them. If that is so, if anybody is left after the next war, they should put up just such a monument to the speakers who, by words spoken or unspoken, contributed to its coming about. Not a glorious general mounted on a horse but a pile of corpses mounted by maundering mountebanks. A better definition of words of fire could not be had than what comes out of their mouths, words that go beyond expressing honest opinions, words whose only answer is writ in human blood.

That being said, I do not think that the Great Being is ruling out words of fire completely. We have all been in situations where a harsh word makes listeners sit up and take notice. When a building is on fire and a rapid, immediate evacuation is called for, words of milk are never effective or appropriate. His point seems to be only that words of milk work better most of the time, they are more in demand in a theocracy and spread more efficiently under conditions of peace and a united world.

This is where equality of the sexes comes into the equation. In a world where the demand for most speech most of the time is for words of milk, the role of women, especially as mothers, will be front and center. As it is now, motherhood is a handicap and detraction from a career. In a world oriented to peace the experience of raising a baby will be regarded as essential training for leadership. It will be asked: How can a leader speak words of milk to all of us if he or she has never even raised one child out of babyhood? A new kind of chivalry will come about; a man will be judged by his words of milk to women, women will be valued by their words of milk to men. A happy, successful marriage will be thought of as the consummation and reward of chivalrous behavior to the opposite sex. Here is how Immanuel Kant portrayed bliss born of duty,

"In fact, when the thinking man has conquered the temptations to vice, and is conscious of having done his (often hard) duty, he finds himself in a state of peace and satisfaction which may well be called happiness, in which virtue is her own reward." (Kant, Metaphysical Elements of Ethics)

Yes, I know, Kant chose to be a bachelor. But he did perceive that peace is the goal of all political activity, and the goal of peace is, yes, family. Consider what the House said in the Peace Message.

"The source of the optimism we feel is a vision transcending the cessation of war and the creation of agencies of international co-operation. Permanent peace among nations is an essential stage, but not, Baha'u'llah asserts, the ultimate goal of the social development of humanity. Beyond the initial armistice forced upon the world by the fear of nuclear holocaust ... the (goal is) unification of all the peoples of the world in one universal family."

Understanding the human race to be one huge family will have tremendous implications. The interests of family will not be marginalized they are rapidly being done in most nations. Family is not one pressure group among many, it is the root of everything human. In a theocracy it is the creative core, the nucleus for all social change. Being a partner in a successful, united marriage is necessary to learn how to work words of milk for change, both long and short term. Therefore, to have raised a vital, happy family will be regarded as a prime requisite for entering and rising in leadership roles, not only in politics but business, academics and other official posts.

John Taylor

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

All the World is a Bath

If All the World is a Bath, How Often Should We Immerse Ourselves?

By John Taylor; 2006 July 11

"An ostentatious man will rather relate a blunder or an absurdity he has committed, than be debarred from talking of his own dear person." - Joseph Addison

In the spirit of Addison's ostentatious man, let me relate an absurdity I committed when I married. I admit it; I made that inevitable but deadly comparison between mother and wife. My mother was a professional homemaker, she cleaned hotels and rich peoples' homes for a living, and she assiduously kept our home up to that standard too. Sheets on the beds were changed every morning, dishes were cleared away and washed immediately, vacuuming was frequent, and we were expected to bathe or shower daily. Marie never clears away the dishes, much less washing them (she discovered a spot on a dish I washed once and now is furious whenever I lift a hand to do the dishes); weeks go by and dishes pile high as your eye. There is vacuuming only when we are about to have guests, usually, and months go by between changes of bed sheets.

My absurdity was that I held my mother on a pedestal and esteemed Marie a slovenly housewife. My folly was pointed out in a study reported in the media lately. Researchers found that when a home is too spick and span, children's immune systems tend to go awry. We have lived for millions of years up to our elbows in creepy crawlies and it is not natural to get rid of them. Not having dirt and germs to fight, the immune system starts picking fights with the body it is supposed to defend. As the saying goes, the devil finds work for idle hands.

Looking back on my childhood, this was absolutely the case. All of my mother's children had severe allergies. My sister was wracked by asthma and had to carry a little squirter around for when her breathing clogged up; I suffered miserably from hay fever, grass and other allergies every fall. Now I notice that our children -- raised in these comparatively unsanitary conditions -- have not had even a hint of an allergy from birth until today. Even my allergies have abated and I no longer dread the falling of the leaves in Autumn. Not a scientific sampling, I admit, but it is enough for me to bless lazy homemakers in my prayers of gratitude.

This raises our question for the day, how clean should we be? How often does the body need to be washed? How often should I take a bath? I ask these questions more often now that my headaches have abated and I really do have a choice. When I was racked by frequent migraines I was forced to have hot bath whenever they occurred or threatened to hit me, which was almost everyday. The heat of the immersion seemed to alleviate the agony, though now I realize that this benefit must have been counteracted by the massive dehydration, which is a major precondition for a migraine. A hot bath probably sweats off a pint of water from the body, and that was not a good thing if I forgot to drink afterwards.

This question of how often to wash probably will be moot in a few years from now, judging by how quickly scientific discovery is advancing. Soon we will hang an RFID sensor around our neck and it will beep if the immune system downshifts into idle or upshifts into overdrive. But meantime, how do we know how much is enough? That is what I want to know.

Cleaning has long been understood as more a religious duty than a hygienic need. The world's oldest known scripture, the Hindu Book of Manu says,

"Every day, having bathed, and being purified, he must offer libations of water..." (Laws of Manu, 176)

The saying goes that cleanliness is a part of godliness, but in Islam cleanless is a prerequisite rather than a part of godliness. Thus Muslims must wash hands and feet before they say their obligatory prayers, and furthermore take a full bath if they are dirtied worse than usual,

"O ye who believe! Draw not near unto prayer when ye are drunken, till ye know that which ye utter, nor when ye are polluted, save when journeying upon the road, till ye have bathed." (Qur'an 4:43, Pickthall)

It is remarkable that this stipulation should have come out of the Sahara desert, one of the driest places on earth. This is surely the last place you would expect bathing to be made obligatory. In part the Qu'ran may have been footnoting the following teaching of Jesus, which seems to imply that taking a full bath is unnecessary to ritual cleanliness, washing the feet is enough.

Jesus began washing the feet of his disciples, which shocked them. Only slaves washed other peoples' feet. Peter, at last understanding, thought he was getting into the spirit of things when he said, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!" But Jesus replied,

"`Someone who has bathed only needs to have their feet washed, but is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you.' For he knew him who would betray him, therefore he said, `You are not all clean.'" (John 13:11, WEB)

The lesson John learned was clear. Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, was unclean inside, and that is what cleanliness really is about. Ritual washing is clearing away all traces of ill will, of infidelity, or lack of faith. This is why ablutions and baths must take place before prayer, rather than during or after prayer. For a heart dark like Judas's is only defiling more if he bends down to pray. He can offer only the "kiss of Judas."

The law of Baha'u'llah takes a middle ground between Christian foot washing and Muslim baths. The Kitab-i-Aqdas stipulates washing of hands and face before obligatory prayer, like Muslims, but also washing of the feet on a regular basis. "Wash your feet once every day in summer, and once every three days during winter." (Aqdas, 74) But a weekly bath remains in His law.

"It hath been enjoined upon you to pare your nails, to bathe yourselves each week in water that covereth your bodies, and to clean yourselves with whatsoever ye have formerly employed. Take heed lest through negligence ye fail to observe that which hath been prescribed unto you by Him Who is the Incomparable, the Gracious."

Furthermore, Baha'u'llah counteracts a ploy that Muslims had come up with to get around the spirit of the Qu'ran's bathing law. The Qu'ran did not say how clean the bathwater had to be, or how often it could be re-used. The communal Turkish bath was based upon the ancient Roman baths, only filthier; in Rome baths were regarded as a luxury for the elite, and they did it more as curative therapy than a religious duty. Every Muslim was required by religious law to bathe, so demand and usage in public baths were much higher. Turkish baths, as might be expected, economized by using the same water over and over. That sort of corner cutting is outlawed by Baha'u'llah.

"Immerse yourselves in clean water; it is not permissible to bathe yourselves in water that hath already been used. See that ye approach not the public pools of Persian baths; whoso maketh his way toward such baths will smell their fetid odour ere he entereth therein. Shun them, O people, and be not of those who ignominiously accept such vileness. In truth, they are as sinks of foulness and contamination, if ye be of them that apprehend. Avoid ye likewise the malodorous pools in the courtyards of Persian homes, and be ye of the pure and sanctified. Truly, We desire to behold you as manifestations of paradise on earth, that there may be diffused from you such fragrance as shall rejoice the hearts of the favoured of God."

Toward the end of the 19th century researchers began making controlled experiments using American soldiers as test subjects. They measured and compared amounts of water used by baths and showers, and somehow calibrated how clean the soldiers were afterwards. They found that they were just as clean after a shower and that water usage was far less. Baha'u'llah anticipates this in His Book of Laws by allowing for alternatives, such as showers.

"If the bather, instead of entering the water, wash himself by pouring it upon his body, it shall be better for him and shall absolve him of the need for bodily immersion. The Lord, verily, hath willed, as a bounty from His presence, to make life easier for you that ye may be of those who are truly thankful." (Aqdas, 57-58)

Before, in effect the Qu'ran had stipulated the Turkish bath by offering no alternative to that means of washing. Now we do have options, as long as the body is washed thoroughly, at least once a week. In fact, a shower is "better for him," and why? Basically because God desires to "make life easier for you..."

I find this very interesting, having just taken a little crash course on baths throughout history. As I mentioned, thinking has been divided outside the hard core religious traditions between bathing as an effete luxury -- Romans would have been shocked to see slaves and the Hoi Polloi partaking of public baths -- and as a cure. In Germany it was common as soon as you got sick to jump in the bath and stay there "virtually from sunup to sundown." Other doctors forbade baths during illness and even believed that they caused illness -- in view of the habit of re-using bathwater, this was probably not without justification. The recent fad of hot tubs meant a rediscovery of this danger, since warm water is a perfect incubating chamber for bacteria. Hippocrates, rashly in retrospect, mocked those physicians who believed that baths cause illness. He held that this just shows how ignorant they were of the real causes of illness. That was true, but it did not mean that he knew any better!

A bath a week will seem like very little to most people reading this essay. Like me when I had migraines, inhabitants of over-developed countries probably have too many rather than too few baths. Who knows what kind of harm this excess of cleanliness is doing us? Is it a contributor to cancer or heart disease? In a related area, it has already been found (judging by a poster prominently displayed in my dentist's office) that the optimum amount of tooth brushing is twice a day for two minutes (2 for 2). More than that kills more friendly bacteria than unfriendly ones. What is the sweet point for the optimum number of baths?

It is natural to turn for the answer to the habits of our Exemplar. The period of His life when the Master's habits were most under scrutiny was during His Western journeys. Just after He boarded the Cedric bound for New York, He ate at a beautiful table and remembered the difficult life they had lived until then as outcasts of the nations, adding that "one must be grateful." Mahmoud then recorded the following in his diary entry for 26 March, 1912,

"One of the servants asked why man is not thankful when in comfort. 'Abdu'l-Baha replied, 'It is due to negligence. Otherwise one must be aware and thankful when immersed in the sea of bounties.' Then He said, 'I have not had a good bath for several months.' The ship's attendant was then asked to prepare a warm fresh water bath for Him. Afterwards, He said, 'I am much better now. For a long time I have not had leisure to take a real bath.'" (Mahmud, 15)

How closely attuned He was to His Father's Law! For note how He thinks of a taking a bath just after talking about gratitude. Recall what the Aqdas says above just after allowing for showers (or possibly sponge baths) instead of baths. It says that God desires to make life easier in order "that ye may be of those who are truly thankful." Here is a new attitude to luxury, not as an insult or denial of God, but as a way of acquiescing to His will that we be comforted, so we can express our gratitude.

The next mention of a bath shipboard takes place ten days later, on the 5th of April. So although the Master does not deny himself this comfort, He indeed partakes of the luxury while traveling -- a time when there must have been little else to do -- nonetheless  they may have been as much as ten days apart. But there is some indication in the text that He took this bath as a health restorative from fatigue, perhaps after a poor night's sleep.

"Very early in the morning the Master called some of us to His cabin and said that He was tired. After taking a bath and drinking some tea He felt better and came out of His cabin." (Mahmud, 29)

Later on on a hot July 12th day, this conversation is reported:

"As the heat was excessive and because He had been revealing Tablets and visiting with the friends, 'Abdu'l-Baha was tired. We said that there was a bath in the house and that the Master could have His bath every day. He said: 'We are like soldiers; we must not form any habits or have a care for anything.'" (Mahmud, 166)

The fact that God wants to comfort us does not necessarily mean that we must accept the luxuries available to us, especially if we wish to be soldiers in His army. Which brings us back full circle, to the practice Jesus initiated of abbreviating the washing of the whole body by washing only the feet. As we noted, the Aqdas confirms and perpetuates this law, requiring that a Baha'i's feet be washed at least daily in summer. Through the years I have often pondered this law as I washed my feet at the end of my daily bath. Perhaps someone will invent a machine that will conveniently wash only peoples' feet. Or perhaps, in remembrance of Jesus's washing of his disciples' feet, in some families a tradition will be built up where the paterfamilias or materfamilias will wash the feet of subordinate family members. Or even instead of kissing babies and shaking hands, politicians will indulge in foot washing of their constituents. This possibility seems also to be anticipated in the Aqdas, which emphasizes that the approval of any ritual act, be it washing or praying or whatever, is only good if it pleases God, God and none else.

"By the righteousness of the one true God! Were anyone to wash the feet of all mankind, and were he to worship God in the forests, valleys, and mountains, upon high hills and lofty peaks, to leave no rock or tree, no clod of earth, but was a witness to his worship -- yet, should the fragrance of My good pleasure not be inhaled from him, his works would never be acceptable unto God." (Baha'u'llah, Kitab-i-Aqdas, 31)

I will end with an apposite story told by Jalalu'd-Din Rumi that could be entitled the "Parable of the Bath." One day a man became so filthy, so defiled that his heart became filled with shame. He felt so guilty that he entered the Turkish bath but refused to get into the water. "I am not worthy," he said, "I am too dirty to take a bath." He was like the patient who refused to enter a hospital because he was too sick. Which is why, Rumi points out, the Arabic saying goes, "Shame hinders religion." (Mathnavi, Volume 2, E.H. Whinfield tr.) Echoing Shakespeare (not to mention environmentalists decrying global warming), Rumi points out that all the world is a bath stove, and piety is the hot bath,

"The lust of the world is like a bath stove,
Whereby the bath of piety is heated;
But the lot of the pious is purity from the stove's filth,
Because they dwell in the bath and in cleanliness.
The rich are as those that carry dung
To heat the furnace of the bath withal.
God has instilled into them cupidity,
That the bath may be warmed and pleasant.
Quit this stove and push on into the bath;
Know quitting the stove to be the bath itself.
Whoso is in the stove-room is as a servant
To him who is temperate and prudent."

John Taylor

Monday, July 10, 2006

Financing Hillside Housing

Financing Hillside Housing Projects

By John Taylor; 2006 July 10

I just finished listening to a thrilling history book-on-tape called "Nothing Like it in the World," Ambrose's story of the building of the first transcontinental railroad in the 1860's. I would like to see such an effort repeated in my lifetime, only instead of just a rail line -- our present rail system is badly in need of an upgrade anyway -- this time it would be combined with the building of the first transcontinental hillside development. According to this idea train tracks would be buried deeper and better, that is, they would accommodate a high speed rail line like the French TGV (train a grand vitess) or the more radical Japanese and Chinese maglev trains. Overhead a long mound development would be constructed. The underground train tracks might be built on two levels; below an express rail line would run at a very high speed and over it a second level would carry a slower train with local stops. This is the subject of my book-in-progress, currently called "Hillside Housing."

On the surface level, over the trains, would be a long, snake-like mound development; on the southern, sunny side would be various light and solar energy catching devices, such as greenhouses, glassed-in passive solar structures, solar panels and outside gardens. It has been calculated that if the roads alone in America were covered with solar panels, even our current, 5% efficient solar technology would take in enough energy to fill all of our projected energy demands. On the northern, shady side would be buildings designed to accommodate mobile, modular containerized homes and stores. Thus if a convenience store did not become viable in one neighborhood, it could be rolled onto one of the trains underneath and moved quickly and cheaply to another location anywhere on earth. Individuals too could move their modular homes around without bothering to transport every item they own piece by piece every time.

Judging by the experience of the first intercontinental train builders, the financing of such a staggeringly ambitious enterprise would be surprisingly easy, especially if we learn from the mistakes that were made back then. The two big companies that built the American transcontinental line were the Union Pacific, which started in California and went Eastwards, and the Central Pacific, which started east and built westward; both built the new railway through virgin land at huge expense, but they rapidly made back their investment from the extremely lucrative new railway business.

Not surprisingly, corruption was rife. The bigwigs bilked little investors and taxpayers alike and made huge fortunes for themselves; workers got tiny wages and the names and numbers of wounded and killed were not even written down. The Union Pacific was riddled by the worst scandals of the 19th Century, and the only reason that the Central Pacific got away Scot-free was that somebody came up with the clever expedient of "disappearing" all of its books and records in a fire. Ambrose, typical American, repeats over and over that there was no other way of doing it, as if America existed in a vacuum, completely ignoring the Canadian intercontinental railroad built soon afterwards that learned from and improved upon the egregiously corrupt American example.

Latest news down the pipes: a study just calculated that well over half of all the fossil-based emissions in the world come from America. Why? Because we drive everywhere, far more than any other place in the world. We do not have a choice, everything is designed for cars, not people. So, why do we have to drive everywhere we need to go? Same thing that got the intercontinental railways, greed and rank corruption, or to put it another way, lack of public spirit and rule of law.

Los Angeles is the classic example. Back in the 1920's gas and auto interests bought out all of its trolley rail lines and forced the city from then on to develop exclusively around trucks and automobiles. Now an entire continent is built around the same thing, cars and trucks. Vast suburban sprawl, antiseptic malls, big box stores, all dependent on driving everywhere. And nobody understands the problem because their interests are too deeply implicated. To use a quote popularized by Al Gore's latest movie,

"It's hard to get someone to understand when their salary depends on them not understanding." -Upton Sinclair

Trillions of dollars of investment in an entire built environment whose pollution is choking the human race and, because we no longer walk anywhere, is bringing about epidemic obesity and a thousand other health problems caused by a sedentary lifestyle. As I say, this is not a technical problem, it is one rooted in criminality. Corruption is the effect, the cause is lack of public spirit and a failure to recognize the value of justice.

The hillside developments I propose would be the result not only of learning from past railway building and housing fiascos, but would come of a global order's new, non-corrupt financial system. This would only be possible with the aid of highly advanced networked computers. These full-service, communally owned hillside developments would be designed from the ground up to offer a superior, more attractive option to our present sprawling, polluting, low tech housing plan. Given a choice, every consumer would choose living in a high tech hillside modular dwelling unit connected to the world by a TGV containerized train system. Here is how the financing of such a combined transit and housing development might work.

Let us say that Canadians want to build a hillside train and housing development running across the country, from the Maritimes to Vancouver. Say a given part of the old railway track is already owned by, say, Canadian Pacific. These original owners would be bought out with a share in the future enterprise at the railway track and land's present market value. If it wished, it could trade this for a stake in the new railway venture, or it might bid for a sub-contracting role in the construction of the new TGV train. Every worker and contractor in the project would be paid partly by shares in the private sector of a publicly run enterprise, the first transcontinental TGV train combined with hillside development.

Here, on the other hand, is how financing worked in America in the 19th Century. The transcontinental railway was built with a clever strategy of taking shortcuts in order to cash in on future potential. Everything was done as cheaply as possible, as opposed to doing it right the first time. Far-sighted administrators understood that improvements could be done easier and cheaper once the train itself made transport from distant areas possible; for example, long stretches of track were built on sand using wooden ties that would last only a year or so. Later on, the trains themselves could carry the gravel for proper bedding and wood from anywhere in the country. As they built stones and wood were sold at inflated prices when they could be bought at all. Once the railway was build good wood for permanent ties could be had from anywhere in the country at a good price. Similarly money was had on government loans based on amount of track laid. Their credit was good, for everyone knew that very soon their railway business would be very lucrative.

What I am suggesting is that instead of the old railway barons, we take as our model for the transcontinental hillside development the way that the search engine Google attained its spectacular financial success. They went from a dubious web boom startup to the world's most profitable advertising agency by making a particular computer search algorithm the standard over the entire Internet. They offered their search engine free to all comers and took in their money by offering to share advertising stakes in a plethora of websites. They now take in advertising revenue and give out automatic payments to freelance content providers using a standard formula, albeit one that is proprietary and confidential.

Hillside housing would offer similar shared payment formulas to all that promote them and participate in their construction. The difference is that unlike the railway barons and for that matter Google itself, every one of its financing formulas would be devised in a democratic, open way by experts elected to serve on behalf of the community. The model would then offered and promulgated by public servants with the interest of all humans first in mind. Because the public would always be the majority stakeholder and hold the controlling interest in such projects it would be easy to keep the greedy from getting out of control. In fact the design would be to reverse the Catch 22 that Upton Sinclair pointed out earlier:

"It will be very easy to get someone to understand when their (future stakeholders') salary depends on them understanding."

John Taylor