The World Today for July 04, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE

Today is Independence Day in America, the 241st anniversary of its birth as a new nation. And because July 4th is a day of celebration and remembrance, we are taking a short respite from the world – in all its troubles and glory – and instead are offering an essay in our nation’s honor.

DailyChatter is now more than a year old and we are blessed with a smart and growing audience of people who are deeply interested in global affairs. Wherever you may be on this holiday, and on behalf of everyone at DailyChatter, we wish you a wonderful and happy Fourth of July.

We’ll be back here tomorrow in our regular format.

A Litte Star-gazing

By Alex S. Jones, co-executive editor

“The pursuit of happiness…”

On July 4, 1776, those words became part of the United States Declaration of Independence, the watershed moment in American history.

What an odd sentiment to have included with “life” and “liberty,” the other two things that the Declaration declared essential.

In the world as we mostly know it, the pursuit of money or power, status or even love are closer to what most of us view as essential, based on how we spend our time and energy. But happiness? What might that be?

It is said that it is the journey, not the destination, that is most important in our lives. I have always thought that this was Jefferson’s view, and that his “pursuit of happiness” was a salute to the power of deciding how we invest that most precious of commodities…our time.

Embedded in the “pursuit of happiness” is the obligation to decide what to pursue. One of the revelations of aging is that people really don’t care what you do. They have their own happiness to pursue.

The lesson is that living one’s life based on the perceived judgments of others is a mug’s game…one that you can’t win. And making no decision, simply following the line of least resistance, is not the thing that pursuit of happiness has offered you as an American.

In our troubled world, pursuing happiness may seem to be a sybaritic indulgence. Still, Jefferson was more of an Epicurean, which instructs that pleasure is the greatest good, but defines pleasure as something akin to a wise moderation in all things and a dutiful sense of responsibility. The Declaration might have guaranteed “the pursuit of pleasure” by this definition. As a moderate Epicurean who had a good sense of the deep strain of Puritanism in his country, he wisely saw that this would have been a step too far.

The pursuit of happiness. As we mull these words from the 18th century and how they might apply to the lives we live in 2017, it may be useful to calculate whether we are, in fact, pursuing happiness. The perennial yearning toward self-improvement, losing 20 pounds, increasing our net worth…is that the pursuit of happiness?

Is turning away from the pain and trouble of the world, in a sense, pursuing the happiness of distracting oneself and simply not thinking about it?

Is walking out of the house on a clear night, looking up at the sky and trying to identify the visible constellations the pursuit of happiness?

Perhaps that star-gazing is closest to what Jefferson had in mind.

The message of the Declaration of Independence would seem to be that, along with the incredible gift of being alive and living in a nation that is still one with genuine liberty, comes the obligation to savor the sweetness of life. Not to gorge on empty calories, but to roll one’s tongue around the joy of being able to savor life.

I had a great-grandmother who lived to be nearly 100 and as she neared the end of her life, her one regret was that she was not able to take the walks which, for so many years, had given her such huge pleasure. Simply being able to walk…that was huge.

So on this July 4, in tribute to the gift of the Declaration of Independence, today I intend to go for a walk.

DISCOVERIES

The Skull Cult

As it stands, the remains of the world’s oldest temple – Göbekli Tepe in the Anatolia region of Turkey – already make for an impressive sight.

Now, new evidence – three Neolithic skull fragments recently discovered by archaeologists –show Göbekli Tepe might have been the site of worship for an ancient skull cult that embraced a unique type of post-mortem skull modification.

That’s because the deep, linear grooves carved into these skulls have never been recorded elsewhere, Julia Gresky, the lead author of the study – recently published in the journal Science Advances – told National Geographic.

One fragment even had a hole drilled into it – suggesting these remains might have been hung in the temple on strings and displayed creatively.

Still, because human bones at Göbekli Tepe were mixed in with animal remains and flint tools – rather than buried – more research is needed truly understand the function of this once-holy site.

“We are still in the beginning of working to understand the anthropology of the site,” said Gresky. “Hopefully we will find some more bones and skull fragments. Then we can get a clearer picture of how these people lived.”

Check out some pictures of these carved-up skulls here.

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