Catastrophic Progress

by Ray Jason, The Sea Gypsy Philosopher…

The deep serenity down here in the Archipelago of Bliss soothes and inspires me. Sometimes AVENTURA and I find a tiny lagoon that is so tranquil that the silence almost seems to speak. In many spots the Jungle runs all the way down to the Sea. Such symbolism comforts me, because they are both such essential incubators of Life.

Last week I found a bay so sublime that the voice of Nature was louder than the clamor of Humanity. On a typical day I would see 25 dug-out cayucos being quietly rowed by extremely fit Indios. Only rarely was the stillness disturbed by a boat with an engine. Most of the human sounds came from happy children – laughing and playing in the shallow water.

A little cabin on the shore caught my eye. It seemed like a perfect hideaway for a writer, and I imagined Thoreau sitting on its tiny porch in the twilight savoring a day well-spent on reflecting and writing. I believe that if he lived today he would choose a sailing boat as his platform for observing and commenting on Life. A cabin on Walden Pond would be impossibly expensive; and he would chafe at the preposterous restrictions that the bureaucrats would demand.

I have long felt that he too would choose the Sea Gypsy Philosopher life. This intuition was recently reinforced for me when I learned that the final sentence that he uttered on his deathbed was, “Now comes good sailing!” These thoughts led to a deeper meditation on how astonishingly different the world is now – in just the 153 years since his death.


Here are some of the universal themes that dominated Henry David Thoreau’s thinking and writing:

  • The need for people to stay connected to and reverent towards Nature. Otherwise, they will suffer great psychic damage as both individuals and as societies.
  • The importance of recognizing that the Individual should be more powerful than the State – and that the best governments are those that govern the LEAST!
  • The urgent need to fight against Injustice whether it came in the form of Slavery or Tyrannical Imperialism.
  • The value of Simple Living as a way of avoiding the distractions of the modern world and thus discovering Life’s deeper meaning.

Even though Thoreau provided wise and prophetic counsel on these topics, his guidance was largely ignored. Let’s assess how Humanity has dealt with these issues in the century and a half since he died.

  • REVERENCE FOR NATURE – The human-built world has become so dominant in contemporary urban society, that for most people an experience of Nature means a vacation in a national park. In other words they visit a preserve that is like a theme park except that it is filled with trees and bears and geysers. Even agriculture is barely natural anymore. The soil is gone and replaced with a thin veneer of fertilizers and pesticides and herbicides. And the farmers spend most of their time driving enormous air-conditioned tractors and combines.
  • POWER TO THE PEOPLE – The brilliant and noble concept of government “by, for and of the People” has been so distorted that it is a mockery of the original intention of the Founding Fathers. And this is not just in the U.S., for almost all nations now have “elected representatives” who are just puppets for the tiny rich elites who really pull the strings of power.
  • BATTLING INJUSTICE – Those who wield the levers of power continue to shape a world which is dominated by a few rulers and an enormous mass of people who are ruled. Unfortunately, these people – who I refer to as The Malignant Overlords – are as clever as they are ruthless. So instead of shaking an iron fist, they wield their control more subtly – using meaningless elections and a lapdog media.
  • SIMPLICITY FOR CLARITY – The modern world is a tsunami of electronic gadgetry that is drowning humanity with tiny machines that complicate our lives instead of simplifying them. People spend their days staring at screens that are LCD replacements for authentic living.

So what would Thoreau think about this “Progress” that we have achieved in the last century and a half? Presumably, he would be appalled and outraged. But these issues that he was crusading against are actually puny when compared with the problems that face humanity today. That’s because in those days we had the technology to harm one another; but we didn’t yet have the means to actually exterminate the entire human project. But in one of his lesser-known quotations Thoreau does allude to man’s horrible capacity for malice and destruction:

“Thank god men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.”

But in fact, we have “laid waste” to the Sky and the Earth and the Sea. And we are faced with such enormous problems that the very existence of humankind is at risk. Fortunately, if we do manage to drive ourselves to extinction, our small, wet, lush planet will survive. And eventually Mother Earth will heal the wounds that 10,000 years of human civilization – and especially 300 years of industrial advancement – have heaped upon her.

I realize that this seems like blasphemy since we are bombarded with messaging that assures us that the rise of capital C Civilization is the best thing that ever happened to the planet. But a visionary like Thoreau would clearly recognize that we are defiling and destroying our one and only support system. The lunacy would be obvious to him. And to those who might not perceive it, let me mention a few possible ways that we may very well end our stay on the planet in the very near future.

  • CLIMATE CHAOS – Despite the efforts of the rich and immoral industrialists bankrolling the climate change denial camp, the mass of evidence from “un-bought” scientists is overwhelming. Our human conduct is profoundly altering the very biological, geological and atmospheric functioning of the planet. And those who think that the looming disasters will be gradual and manageable, have not examined the ice and tree core data that clearly shows catastrophic climate change often occurs swiftly and violently.
  • NUCLEAR INSANITY – The movement by the most hawkish and psychotic elements of the U.S. political and military “leadership” to reignite the Cold War should be terrifying to everyone. And yet it is barely noticed by the general population who are largely fixated on their iDistractors.   Instead of the long standing policy of only launching nuclear missiles if fired upon by an enemy, a new “first-strike” policy has been quietly installed by the U.S. Plus, money is now being allocated by multiple governments for new generations of even more lethal nuclear weapons. And with the rise of computer hacking, the dangers become multiplied even more ominously.
  • WORLDWIDE PANDEMIC – This risk has several variations. A Super-bug could spread rapidly around the world because of how interconnected the planet now is through air travel and long-distance food shipping. Or more maliciously, evil elements – be they terrorists or tyrannical governments – could release some of the many horrific bio-weapons that have been developed in recent decades. Or such a weapon could escape accidentally through an explosion in a lab where such hideous concoctions are developed.
  • NUCLEAR POWER DISASTERS – Let me count the ways… earthquakes, tsunamis, grid down power outages stopping the cooling pond pumps, sabotage, human error by technicians, spent fuel rods with no place to go. What could possibly go wrong?
  • TRANSHUMANISM AND ROBOT REBELLION – The plot lines of B-grade science fiction movies are rapidly becoming possible realities. The maniacs who refuse to embrace and abide by the Laws of Nature have now conjured up these new threats to human survival. Why do they do it? For human and planetary betterment – or for fame and fortune? You be the judge.


And so as I sit here in this stunningly peaceful lagoon staring at the little Walden cabin by the sea, I am deeply saddened by the disastrous evolution of the human project since the days of Thoreau. If he were alive today he would undoubtedly speak more insightfuly and convincingly than I can on these profound subjects. But my hope is that I can capture a bit of his phantom spirit ghosting about in that tiny cabin – and use it to give my own words more power and eloquence.

Read more of Ray Jason’s work on his blog.

“I live aboard my beautiful sailboat, AVENTURA, and wander the wide waters as an itinerant philosopher. My life is simple, free and joyous.”

Ray currently lives on his sailboat in Panama. Previously he was a Key West cab driver.


3 thoughts on “Catastrophic Progress

    1. Hi Michael,

      Good guess but incorrect. You are only a few hundred miles off. I have spent considerable time in the San Blas and they have their charms. However, where I am in the last 2 weeks I had exactly one boat anchor near me for one night. The rest of the time I was completely by myself. In the San Blas it is tough to find an anchorage with less than 15 boats in it.

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