¿¿ Spooky holiday, or Precious Observance ??

Photo by Toby Ord, Wikimedai Commons


My photo, 2012, Santiago Plaza, Merida


History, especially religious history, morphs over time.  The results can be dark, confusing.  I recently wrote to our Mayan gardener, Victor, who has a college degree and a teaching certificate, asking about his understanding of the local holiday, Hanal Pixan:

YUCATECO MAYA :  HANAL PIXAN  (meal of souls)

SPANISH :  DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS  (day of the dead)


My query to Don Victor :

I’m wondering about the name of this holiday, as I have doubts (or discomfort) about the English rendering: “day of the dead”.  I would prefer to call it day of the ancestors, or day of remembrance (memorial day is too vague, [and /or already dedicated to fallen warriors].  Any thoughts?

He wrote back in Spanish, so I will summarize his points:

En la cultura maya se celebra el “Hanal Pixan”, que literalmente significa comida de las almas. Tiene un sentido estrictamente espiritual, recordando a los fallecidos, de quienes se cree que aún están presentes entre nosotros de manera espiritual, y por eso se hace un altar para compartir con ellos: flores, alimentos y bebidas que fueron sus favoritos, para que tomen el espíritu o esencia de lo ofrecido.

“El Día de Muertos” es de la cultura celta, y se sincronizó con otras culturas que poco a poco perdieron su originalidad, también influenciadas por la Iglesia Católica. El del camino de las almas y la pintura del rostro como se hace ahora en Mérida es un teatro sencillo para atraer más turismo, está lejos de la tradición maya de los antepasados.

In their culture, it is a spiritual holiday celebrating and sharing a meal of remembrance with departed souls, mainly family ancestors.  (It seems to me, from my reading of his words, to be less about the saints of the church, which may have been more prominent in earlier Euro versions.) Surviving family members today believe the offerings and the altar invite the essential visitation of the departed, and the meal of souls is thus shared solemnly, and apparently with gratitude.

He continues, that it seems the original sense of the holiday has been largely lost in the Euro (Celtic/Catholic) version, with the current influence becoming largely to invite tourism. [I’ve heard that Mexico City didn’t even celebrate this holiday until recent times, when the attraction of tourists was noticed, as a potential.]

My sense is that it originally was never about goblins, monsters, death, or the occult.  I see it rather as about thanksgiving, and appreciation of those who have enabled our survival.  So, if you want to scare yourself, just say


¡ BU !


or better yet, say


Language Lesson:

Fantasma > Ghost // Hallowe’en
Hallowe’en “hallowed [sagrado] evening” = se llama la noche antes del Día de Todos los Santos / All Saints Day
Hanal Pixán (en Yucatán): “comida con las almas/ o las animas, de los antepasados” // “meal with the ancestors” day of the dead (ej: high plains of Mexico/en altiplano)

Apparition > aparición “imagen, sin cuerpo” (yo soy, pero no estoy mi coche, ni mis zapatos, ni aunque mi cuerpo; soy mi alma.)
Nube > cloud
Niebla > fog
Neblinoso > foggy, cloudy, misty, hazy

Ghost > geist/geest (German/Dutch) : mind-spirit / fantasma
Holy Ghost > Espíritu Santo (ej: como Juan 14:26, el Consolador / the Comforter)

Soul > alma/espíritu/anima
Visitation > visitación (ej: como María, Lucas 1:28): Y entrando el ángel en donde ella estaba, dijo: ¡Salve, muy favorecida! El Señor es contigo; bendita tú entre las mujeres.

Wind/breath/spirit // pneuma/ruach (English // Greek/Hebrew)
Bible translators need to examine the context of wind, breath, spirit (viento, respiración, anima) as in both Hebrew and Greek, the words could all mean the same, yet are different concepts.






Miami International Airport terminal, looking out upon world flags.

It’s been well-over two years since we’ve flown anywhere.  I had personal business in US so we booked a two-hour flight on AA to Miami, which makes direct transits in both directions each afternoon, arriving in Miami at 6:30pm and in Merida about 3:30pm.  International travel is still taxing, but at least we didn’t have to arise at 4am!

MetroMover cars service the downtown, free. (No mask. No ride.)

Miami’s rail system is impressive.  Their transit system, MetroRail, got us from the airport to within a short walk of our hotel.  Very affordable!  Monday thru Friday for $22.50 per person for the work-week, using prepaid cards bought all at once from a vending machine —  a significant savings over buying one ride at a time.  (There are plenty of transit workers ready to explain how to transact.)  The MetroMover, seen in the photo above, shuttled us around downtown for free, no cards needed.  MetroRail requires prepaid cards at the gate. Masks are required of all passengers on all transit systems in Miami.

We stayed at a dignified older hotel which has been smartly restored: the EuroStar Langford Miami.  Well located, on SE 1st Street. Well managed.  Comfortable.  Dining nearby ranges from Whole Foods salad bar, to Boulud Sur.  We enjoyed our first poke bowl (think Asian-version of Chipotle Mexican Grill, at OG Poke, on SE 1st.)  We also enjoyed a tiny Cuban breakfast spot, with sidewalk tables but no name, two blocks east of the hotel (next to Kone Sushi).  But note: wherever we went in Miami we froze.  Yeah, it’s “north” of Yucatán, but the air conditioning on trains, in eateries, and in malls was excessive.  Take a sweater!  I saw office workers wearing quilted vests and robes! We’re cooling ourselves into oblivion.

My other complaint was signage. Their street signs are not at human scale, and they display only one half of each intersection, high above pedestrians, assuming that everyone knows what street their walking on.  Clearly the signage is for drivers not walkers.  This was troubling, as we got lost walking to our hotel, upon first arriving downtown. 

This city is on the go.  Construction is everywhere.  The mayor knows the city is at risk of sea-level inundation.  But BigMoney seems to expect taxpayers to come to the rescue. Venice FL !

A fancy high-rise near our hotel.

SPINOZA’s RADICAL THEOLOGY  : :   A mini book review

Spinoza’s Radical Theology : the Metaphysics of the Infinite

FIVE STARS.  I’ve long been asking fellow students of philosophy who their favorite philosopher might be.  Well, Professor Charlie Huenemann’s book has me convinced:  next to Socrates/Plato, in the modern era, mine is Bennie Spinoza.  This excerpt is from the first page of his concluding chapter, titled Spinoza vs Nietzsche:

Spinoza may have been the first philosopher to propose a metaphysical vision that so thoroughly integrates the deep reverence in ancient religion with the remorseless necessity of modern physics.  He saw that nature is closed — no loopholes, no exceptions, and no magic — and indifferent to our plight.  But he also experienced something divine in nature that had been discerned as well in revealed religion, although not in full clarity.  He proposed not a compromise, but an integration: yes, nature is as cold and indifferent as a mechanistic physics implies, and, yes, the light of scripture is an expression of the reverence due to nature.  He asked that metaphysics and religion take a step forwards and together into a synthesis that preserved the essence of each.  (p.131, paperback edition, Acumen Publishing.)

CLICK the red title above to browse inside.


¿ REDUCTIONISM or HOLISM ?  : :  mini-review of a SPINOZA Book

As a reader, I’m a corner-folder, placing tiny checkmarks √ and marginalia in my books, on pages with folded corners.  Judging by this evidence, this volume is one of the better reads I’ve enjoyed over the past decade — and I’m only half finished reading it!  But my sharing of my awareness of this book should wait no longer, so that you may be stimulated by it, dear Reader. I suggest we let Baruch (“Benedict”/“Blessed”) Spinoza be an inspiration; and Professor Grossman our instructor.  Here’s my take on their collaboration:

We arrive on this planet as tiny philosophers or scientists, attempting to assess the nature of reality. We conduct experiments from an early age, seated in our highchairs, pushing our spoons off the table, onto the floor.  Spoon always goes down.  Mom gets weary. We know the floor quite well, from crawling on it.  But we’re unable to detect much “stickiness” regarding floors (expect perhaps near our highchairs).  What draws the spoon down? 

So we propose a hypothesis to ourselves:  there’s a force which pulls all things down, like us, when we lose our balance, kerplop.  As we grow, we gain strength and balance, thus surmounting said force, somewhat. But on our second birthday somebody hands us a helium-filled balloon.  We grin.  But then we let go of the string (readying ourselves to put our noses into the cake) and the balloon goes up!  We’re shocked.  Our hypothesis has been falsified.  Not everything always goes down!  So we must reassess our exploration of reality.

This book invites much reassessment of stuff we think we know which just ain’t so (~TWAIN).  And it does so in clear writing, from clear thinking.  Here’s an example from Professor Grossman:

   Let us use the term holism to refer to any metaphysical framework that holds that the world is a single, indivisible whole, not reducible to the sum of its “parts”; and let us use the term atomism to refer to any metaphysical framework that holds that the world is not an indivisible whole, but rather, is made up of and reducible to its parts.  Each framework is made up of and reducible to its parts — that the world is an aggregate of parts.  Each framework carries with it an associated methodology, that is to say, a way of approaching any given problem.  For Example, if, as atomism asserts, the world really is made up of parts, then the right method of understanding any phenomenon is to break it up into its constituent parts.  These “parts“ will in turn also have parts, and this process of reduction continues until one has reached the ultimate parts.  On the other hand, if the whole is more than the sum of its parts, as Holism asserts, then the correct method of understanding any particular thing involves finding a larger whole in which the particular thing is embedded.  This larger whole will itself be embedded in a still larger whole, and this process of “embedding” continues until one has reached the “Ultimate Whole” — All-There-Is, or God. [p.33, paperback edition].

     At this point I will invite you to click on the red link above, to browse inside the book, connecting to Amazon’s Look Inside feature.  I hope you are stimulated, as I have been!

NOTE.  If you decide to read this book, be aware that there is a glossary in the back.  It would have been a great help if the publisher had placed this up front!

I should mention that Neal Grossman went to MIT to study physics many decades ago, but became smitten with philosophy, and is now an emeritus professor of philosophy, elsewhere.









+ + + + + PSALM READING + + + + +

I’d like to share a new practice with you which I’ve been enjoying for some months, regarding the psalms.  
   There are 150 of them, as you may already know; and there are roughly 30 days in a month.  150 divided by 30 is 5, so today I’m reading five psalms, sequentially incrementing each of them by adding 30, thusly:  today is the 21st, so I’m reading psalms 21, 51, 81, 111, and 141.  It makes for a lovely meditation — especially if you read between the lines!  (I use the BlueLetterBible, online, which features various translations, for comparison purposes, and minimal advertising. (Good research tools, too.)
   We are told:  Pray the Lord of the harvest that S/He send forth laborers into the harvest.  (see Matt 9:38 and Luk 10:2)
   I used to wonder why the Lord needed our prayers, but then came to see that we were invited to the harvest party.  We can RSVP simply by showing up, by reading and meditating.  And listening, which may be the highest form of prayer.

Photo: youtube (fair use)

NOTE: As Psalm 119 is so long (175 verses!), and divided into subheads alphabetically, it could be apportioned daily, as an extension of our fifth item.  Below is a column enumerating the 22 letters of biblical Hebrew to help you read the one for the “extra” portion, making six items (for 22 days).  You could print this out and keep it handy. (I’ve taped mine near my keyboard for easy reference.)  The day of the month is on the left, and the name/pronunciation of the Hebrew letter on the right. (You will see these inserted into the text of  Psalm 119, untranslated, which appears on the 29th day. But by day 22, we will have read the entire Psalm, so we can skip ahead by 30 to Psalm 149.)

1.    ALEPH
2.    BETH
3.    GIMEL
4     DALET
5.    HEY
6.    VAU
7.    ZAIN
8.    CHET
9     TETH
10.  YOD
11.  CAPH
12.  LAMED
13.  MEM
14.  NUN
15.  SAMEK
16   AIN
17.   PEH
18.  TZADI
19.  KOPH
20   RESH
21.  SHIN
22.  TAU


Hurricane Grace is comin’! 
Stuff we’ve done to prepare:  (applies to Buffalo blizzards, too) —

Charged all devices:  computers, phones, Kindles, portable drill, mosquito racquets (matar mosquitos).

Topped up the rooftop water tank, tinaco, to the brim. (Just lift the cord inside the tank which tethers the float valve, lowering it when full.)  Also, wise to tie the lid of the tank with strong cord or woven cable, tethering it so it doesn’t sail off like a Frisbee.
Fueled car, adding some fuel treatment (ethanol, not methanol) to mitigate moisture.

Shut off propane tank.
Shut off outdoor circuit breakers to well pump and pool pump.

Cleared yard of chairs, and any possessions that might become airborne trash.

Put some sheltered louvered-windows open at 45º to allow for pressure differential, in the event of tornadoes.

Turned off solar panel system, covering some panels with precut plywood to shield them from flying trash, clamping edges tightly.

Added algicide and chloro tabs to swimming pool, drawing pool level down a bit (six inches) to prevent excessive dilution.  (Hey, it’s smart to put your raincoat on before getting drenched!) 

Removed art work and soft goods from our patio room, which has only screens and bars, protectores, as a fourth wall.

Added a few clamps to downspouts, cleaning out scuppers, and replacing rusted wire mesh to prevent clogging of drains.

Park your car in a parking ramp at a hotel, shopping center, or hospital — but not below ground!  (Thanks, Hammockman Paul!)
If leaving car on street, fold back car mirrors on both sides, to reduce their risk to flying trash.

Put heavy barrier against upstairs backdoor to prevent it blowing open, as it faces direction of oncoming storm.

Shopped mostly for canned and dry goods — stuff that doesn’t require chilling. Grains, such as rolled oats, rice, beans keep well, but need to be stored well to prevent ants and rats from dining.  (Shout-out to Jim at BackyardNature.net)
Store some firewood or charcoal in a dry space. If in the tropics, be sure it is wood which termites won’t eat, such as zapote, or other hardwood. (Jim)
Buy fresh batteries of various sizes.
Lay in extra bottled water — six 20-liter garrafones (five-gallon jugs).

Eat your ice cream after the power goes out.  We waited for four hours; it was still hard, but just starting to soften.  (Don’t open the fridge unless absolutely necessary!) But we were ready for bed, so we had a double portion of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia, and retired for the evening.  Hurricane Grace took down some trees around town, and knocked our power out for 13 hours, here. (Friend Jeff lost power for 20 minutes.)
If power goes out for long, call around to friends (assuming there is a cell signal) to learn who has electricity.  Then invite yourself over, bringing pot luck, and any melting fridge-stuff.  Maybe empty the fridge before departing, leaving fridge door open.  Bring a hammock, a change-of-clothes, sleeping bag, go-bag, book, deck-of-cards, umbrella, raincoat, money, passport, hand-crank radio, solar lantern, back-up disk, etc.   (Thanks again, Hammockman.)

¿¿ HURRICANE COMIN’ ??   : :  Weather Tools

Tuesday August 17, TS Grace, near bottom, over Haiti, days after their 7.2 earthqquake, of Saturday, August 14.  (On far right, TS Henri doing a U-turn near Bermuda, soon to head for Cape Cod.)

Merida appears to be in the crosshairs.  While Tropical Storm GRACE isn’t presently expected to become a hurricane until after leaving Merida, this stuff can change quickly.  (Two days ago it was tracking for New Orleans, passing between Cuba and Florida.)

Grace could be my very first tropical hurricane, aside from remnants of Hurricane Hazel which blew thru the Buffalo area when I was a boy, and then nearly drowned Toronto, washing out several neighborhoods, which are now parks.  (Hurricane-risk is maybe preferable to those nearly annual Buffalo blizzards — but blizzards don’t create parks.)  Tropical Storm Cristóbal, last year, dropped over 20 inches of rain (not snow) on Merida, lingering for a few days.  But there wasn’t much wind.  Nor anything to shovel!   [more text beneath graphics . . .]


LAST YEAR :  Cristóbal, June 2020,  youtube  (fair use). Predictions need updates, often !!!


MSNBC / screenshot from youtube. (fair use)

Perhaps you remember the big flap over an audition by a politician as a weather guy?  (The Don maybe got his opportunity to apply for the job from being tight with a very wealthy executive of TWC, a big supporter.)  Hurricane Dorian went up the east coast, but Donnie said it was going to Alabama, based on very outdated TWC info.  Here are excerpts from Associated Press:

“Trump has defended his Sept.1 tweet that said Hurricane Dorian would threaten Alabama. Last week Trump displayed an altered hurricane forecast map in the Oval Office that included a crudely drawn addition in black ink to include parts of Alabama in an attempt to make his point.” […]

“Trump cited older and less authoritative information, which was based on outdated computer models and older graphics on wind speed.” > >   So, are ya gonna pick a weather-feed based on science, or politics?

Wednesday 11:45 am. Weather Underground predicts only an inch of rain.  I think they got it about right, judging by the level in the pool, but the power went out on my rooftop weather tools, so I am unsure.

Cool tool, with lots of details  Windy.com    (Yucatan in blue.  Cuba in green.  TS Grace in purple)


8am Wednesday  NHC National Hurricane Center.


Wednesday 10:30 am  NOAA “Geo-color”


Wednesday 11:20am  NOAA  “GLM FED”  Lightning mapper shows storm covering peninsula.


3:40 pm Wednesday. Geostationary Lightning Mapper


According to WeatherUSA, the storm became a hurricane about 15 minutes ago, at 11:28 am Wednesday:  Hurricane Grace was intensifying on Wednesday morning. A reconnaissance plane found that an eye with a diameter of 18 miles (29 km) was forming at the center of Grace. The developing eye was surround by a ring of strong thunderstorms and the strongest winds were occurring in that ring of storms. Bands of showers and thunderstorms were revolving around the center of Hurricane Grace. Storms near the core of Grace were generating upper level divergence that was pumping mass away from the hurricane. The removal of mass was causing the surface pressure to decrease. Winds to hurricane force extended out 25 miles (40 km) on the eastern side of Grace. Winds to tropical storm force extended out 115 miles (185 km) from the center of circulation.


8:30 pm Wednesday


Above: “Night-time microphysics” roughly 8 am Thursday


9:15 am Thursday, a friend well east of Merida (Tepekan) reports a few gusts, light rain. Here in Merida, no rain, light breeze.  (Yucatan peninsula no longer discernible.)

Meanwhile, a bit to the north, TS Henri is doing a U-turn southwest of Bermuda, and charting a course for Cape Cod!  And according to CNN, Grace crossed the Bay of Campeche, striking Mexico’s Veracruz state as a category 3 hurricane.

Grace was graceful.  She took down trees around town, causing power outages, but I’ve heard of no human tragedies.  Our power went off at 1:45 pm, and was out for 13 hours.  We ate a double portion of B&J’s Cherry Garcia, to “rescue it” from turning to soup.  A few small limbs came down from the big zapote tree in the backyard.  Lots of soggy leaves, but no damage.  A few photos of the aftermath:

Power winked off briefly, resetting wifi device, before going out for 13 hours.

Power winked off briefly at 1:45pm Thursday, resetting wifi tool, then went out for 13 hours.


Yes, there’s no global warming!




Who knew that Mexico (“New Spain”) had made such a huge bet on freedom — namely, that anyone who set foot on Mexican soil was instantly a free person?   SOUTH TO FREEDOM  tells this largely untaught account well.

Major General Andrew Jackson had invaded and stolen Florida from Spain, to disrupt escaping slaves from that foreign destination, of hiding in the swamps there, among the Seminoles.  Mexico didn’t have the military resources to defend it’s northern border against such incursions, but they were certain that slavery was immoral.  So they declared that anyone setting foot on Mexican soil was instantly a free person.  This may seem to invite a repeat of Jackson’s theft.  But the Mexican’s were steadfast about their position, and fierce in handling any intruding slave-catchers.  Their dedication to liberty of individuals was a major issue at bringing about the American Civil War.   Good scholarship, from a capable researcher and storyteller.

What truly amazes me is that southern plantation owners were not ridiculed off the stage of public opinion for their claim that the US Constitution protected their “property rights”.  “My children are my property, and I have a right to sell them? — I bought their mommas at auction, and bred’em myself.  My property, to do with as I please!” 

This looks like an early example of Big Lie in action, and half a million Americans died for failure to refute this junk argument of property rights.  Sounds just like Stop the steal, no?  (Trump told us for over six months that if he should lose, it was rigged; but if he won, it was fair.)  Heads, I win, tails you lose.  And then came January 6.  



Houston.       Photo:   Weather Nation TV dot com   (fair use)

BIG CARBON, just like Big Tobacco regarding nicotine, wants you to deny climate change.  They’re spending bigtime to keep you in denial.  Don’t be naive.  Predictive science has gotten pretty accurate.  (If you reject science why do you watch weather reports about when and where the next hurricane will hit?)  Keep an open mind!  Have a look at my short post about the history of science regarding CO2, from physicist Lawrence Krauss’s new book.

FLOODS can be devastating.  Noah knew!  And, yes, God told him there would not be another global flood to drown the entire planet.  Again, don’t be naive.  Rising sea levels (and droughts) are going to cause massive population migrations.  Pay attention to the science, instead of to the loudmouth spinmeisters working for Big Carbon who are laughing all the way to the bank.

COAL MINERS used to take canaries into the shaft to detect (by dying!) poisonous coal gas, thus saving the lives of alerted miners.  Artists are like this, alerting the public to impending tragedy (hopefully not by dying). 

ARTISTS.  Linked here is an art installation in Boston Harbor, including a video, which might help you ponder what’s coming at us as the meltwaters from Greenland and South Pole soon flood the shores, topple houses, evict residents, and SHUT DOWN THE GULF STREAM (which has happened before, flash-freezing beasts in Siberia which are often unearthed in modern times with tropical vegetation still in their gut).  Without the Gulf stream, a new ice age will begin, suddenly!



by artist       (and crew)

c a r o l i n a   a r a g ó n

fair use



TheGUARDIAN, online (fair use)

A human wave cominig to a shoreline near you :  700 million displaced people