Ignorance is to bliss, as technology is to…

Bell Rock Courthouse ButteThe familiar phrase comes from an ode written by Thomas Gray, a poet who lived in the 1700s, The full quote is, “Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”

The impetus for the poem was some joyful children playing near Eton College, with no thought of what future catastrophes their lives might hold. The poet lists a few: disdainful anger, pallid fear, grim-visaged, comfortless despair.  He describes an icy soul that watches a slow-consuming old age approach.

The poem was written when Gray was 26, perhaps a bit young for a midlife crisis, but consider that he died at 55. Later Romantic poets had even a worse fate, with Keats dying at 25 and Shelley at 30.

I’ve been blessed with good health, but these words of 300 years ago were prescient of events this past week.

On the advice of my wellness coach, I acquired a Fitbit and a blood-pressure cuff. (Also a thermometer that takes my temperature by touching my forehead, but that’s the topic for another day.)

Using these new wonders of technology, with additional inputs into my computer, I can tell exactly what my blood pressure is upon rising (comatose) and what percentage of fiber I have ingested for the day (not enough).

I now know if I’ve had a restful sleep or whether I’ve been sitting too long in front of the computer. It cheers me on if I’ve accomplished my step goal or allows me to “taunt” a friend if she has not achieved hers.

There are other intrusions on the horizon: Smart refrigerators that alert you if the milk is going bad. A beep on your phone to tell you the traffic is heavy this morning and you need to leave five minutes early for work.

Ray Kerzweil Singularity is NearAbout ten years ago, the futurist Ray Kurzweil wrote a book entitled, The Singularity is Near, in which he predicted a merger between genetics, nanotechnology and robotics to create a new humanoid species entirely unlike anything we ever known.

We are indeed close. I find it exceedingly uncomfortable to be jerked into the future like a puppy raised by the nape of the neck and unceremoniously dumped in the back yard. I’ve had that feeling several times this past week.

Maybe Thomas Gray had it right all along. Perhaps ignorance is bliss, and we don’t want, or need, to know what’s coming.

How do you feel about the merger of technology and humankind?
I’d love to hear from you!

A walk on the wild side

This past Sunday I took an early morning hike looping around Courthouse Butte.

Courthouse Butte, Sedona, Arizona

Do you know why it is a butte and not a mesa? Because it is taller than it is wide. Here is another, Capitol Butte, shaped roughly like our nation’s capitol:

capitol butte

Here in Sedona, we like to name rocks. This is muffin top:

muffin top

And of course, what else could this be but rabbit ears:

rabbit ears

The wind was blowing, so the birds were keeping low, hidden in the bushes. They don’t like wind, for when everything moves, they can’t see predators. But a Western scrub jay was out. They signal intruders like me with a harsh caw like a crow:

scrub jay

A gray vireo was also out. Their song is a series of chu-weets, lyrical and sweet:

gray vireo

It’s easy to stay on the trail, for the forest service has constructed these ingenious cairns made out of red rock in wire cages. (That’s half of Twin Buttes in the background).

trail cairn

 

The bikers don’t like this trail, though, because the middle of it runs through Wilderness area–makes it nice and secluded for us hikers!bicycle sign

 

The wildflowers are in the middle of their spring bloom. Here is a feathered dahlia. The white-magenta flowers smell like a combination of rose and jasmine and make a lovely tea.feathered dahlia

The strawberry hedgehog has a fruit that according to my plant book taste just like strawberries!

magenta hedgehog

You wouldn’t want to eat the yellow berries of this plant, though. This is the silverleaf nightshade. It is an invasive species, often found where there is overgrazing. You wouldn’t think that would be a problem here, but this area’s original name was Big Park, and there were large herds of cattle grazed here.nightshade flowers

 

Here are the berries. Poisonous, but used by native peoples to tan hides and curdle milk into cheese. All sorts of uses for plants.

nightshade berries

 

This little flower is called the Slender Gaillardia, also called the reddome blanket flower. The Hopis used this as a diuretic:gaillardia

 

We’ve had a very dry year. Some say we are starting a drought cycle. For that reason, water is precious to the wild animals. Even a small bit like this will draw deer for miles:

water hole no 2

 

As I rounded the bend, I caught a glimpse of our most famous rock formation, Cathedral Rock:

cathedral rock

People who say the desert is barren haven’t been to Sedona!