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H2O Man

(74,054 posts)
Mon May 13, 2013, 11:51 AM May 2013

To Have or To Be

"It's no exaggeration to say that the foundations of today's Europe were forged in the events of the late Ice Age, between about forty-five thousand and twelve thousand years ago."
-- Brian Fagan; Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans; Bloomberyy; 2010; page 3.

I'm sitting on a balcony, overlooking the beach and ocean while on a rare vacation in Virginia Beach. My old bones are aching, so while my wife & daughters are out being tourists, I am in the hotel room ....reading Fagan's book, The Essential Fromm (Continuum; 1993), and attempting to finish my latest book on the environment. Spiral notebooks, newspaper clippings, EPA reports, and the transcripts of two federal court cases I participated in are scattered on the table beside me. My youngest daughter left her computer in this suite, to allow me internet access while she is touristing.

"Cro-Magnon" is perhaps an outdated term: these people were fully "modern humans." The author makes interesting, though speculative, theories on how these people may have interacted with the other human group in Europe, the Neanderthal. He believes that there was sporadic, though relatively limited, contact between the two. And he bases his theories on the interpretations of the latest scientific discoveries -- at least from three years ago, though new technologies are always adding to what we know.

I find one of his basic concepts fascinating: while Cro-Magnon peoples had friendly relationships with others of their own type, including "strangers" they had not encountered before, they likely viewed the Neanderthals as "others" -- of lesser status than themselves. And he may, to a large degree, be correct. That dynamic is certainly common throughout modern human history.

Last week, I went out "arrowhead hunting." There were two people that I didn't recognize in the fields where I went. I attempted to strike up a casual conversation with them, but they were not interested in communicating with me. Although there were three large fields plowed -- more than enough ground for each of us to cover -- they left a short time later.

That evening, I went to a grocery store. I saw a young couple; the female had on a sweatshirt with the infamous image of Charlie Manson, from the cover of LIFE magazine, on its back. Yikes! I found myself wondering: What message is she attempting to send to others with this? And what might it say about the manner in which she views herself?

The Fromm book is, like all of his writings, outstanding. Erich Fromm is, in my opinion, the most important "thinker" of our modern era. His writings are surely as important today, as when he authored them decades ago. "To Have or To Be" remains the question of our times. It involves the way in which we view others -- from those inhabiting a very different cultural reality than our own, to a young person wearing a strange sweatshirt. It determines if we seek to live our life as a product for sale on the competitive market (and perhaps the seller, if we are lucky), or do we seek to experience life in a very different way -- one that is increasing difficult in the current socio-economic conditions?

Fromm addresses issues such as why the majority of people accept being victims of a structure that robs them of their humanity? Why they morph into willing participants of a destructive life-style that threatens not only their health and well-being, but that of their children, of all children, and of all future generations? Included in this is an examination of why these same people often resent those who attempt to make meaningful changes in that system.

There is, obviously, the internal conflict for me: to write a book on the damage that toxic industrial waste dumps has done to a population, and then to connect it to hydrofracking -- a process that injects many of these same toxins into the ground -- comes natural for me. Yet I must try to make it a product that the publisher believes will sell. Yikes!

H2O Man

8 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
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To Have or To Be (Original Post) H2O Man May 2013 OP
You have your work cut out for you. enlightenment May 2013 #1
Right! H2O Man May 2013 #4
You have to go back farther- snooper2 May 2013 #2
! H2O Man May 2013 #5
Well.. annabanana May 2013 #3
Thank you! H2O Man May 2013 #6
With all due respect to Mrs H2O.. They are certainly of interest annabanana May 2013 #7
Thanks. H2O Man May 2013 #8


(8,830 posts)
1. You have your work cut out for you.
Mon May 13, 2013, 12:15 PM
May 2013

I don't know exactly what your thesis is, so can't comment on that (even if I knew, I don't have the expertise!). I do understand the dilemma of trying to say what you need to say, but in a manner that communicates the facts in a way that is readable, understandable, and balanced.

Add that the average reader in the US prefers bullet points to essays these days . . . and yes, you have your work cut out for you.

Good luck.

H2O Man

(74,054 posts)
4. Right!
Mon May 13, 2013, 03:13 PM
May 2013

My editor is in her 20s. She often encourages me to make "bullet point" letters-to-the-editor, op-eds, etc. In terms of longer stuff, such as this, it's shorter chapters. (I've also asked a number of friends, including Will Pitt, staff at Pace University's Environmental Law Clinic, and at Natural Resources Defense Council) for ideas.

I still think there are a fair number of people who read books. My friends and associates all do, though that is generally an older group.

H2O Man

(74,054 posts)
6. Thank you!
Mon May 13, 2013, 03:17 PM
May 2013

I appreciate your confidence in me. I hope that I'm able to deliver.

From my perspective, it is both interesting and of value .....but my wife often says that the things that I find fascinating, are of no interest to most people!

H2O Man

(74,054 posts)
8. Thanks.
Tue May 14, 2013, 02:32 PM
May 2013

We will be seeing a young lady who used to live in our home, seven years ago. She had been homeless -- her mother was in prison, and her Dad had died. She had dropped out of high school, and was living on the street. We found her camping out in our tent, out in a field behind our house, and invited her to inhabit our humble home.

She got her high school diploma, driver's license, a job, and a bank account. We then helped her get into college. There were, of course, some pretty rough times .....but everything is as difficult as it is important.

She moved down here, to be closer to her aunt and cousins. We've kept in touch, but haven't seen her for all these years. She was a bit surprised when we called her, to say that we've stopped down for her birthday. (smile)

She is doing very well for herself. I think she is an example of someone who listened to me!

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