The Unicorn, the Phoenix, and the Dragon

The dragon is not a magical beast, except insofar as it enjoys adding magical objects to its hoard. In theory, a dragon could do just about anything it happens to want to do, but in practice, what it wants to do is gather a great heap of treasure and lie on it, sleeping or drowsily counting and sorting every last gold coin. It is a truly fearsome beast in its prime, capable of gulping down any number of second-string heroes, but despite the claims of certain popular songs, dragons don’t live forever, and sooner or later someone is going to leap boldly past the flames and drive a sharp point into its heart. Dragon Time is the age when abstract concepts, heaped up like gold in a dragon’s hoard, dominate human consciousness and suppress magic—for a time.

Source: The Well of Galabes

Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone

When we finally hurled ourselves over the rimrock to the top of the little mesa, the ruins of the old city of Puyé spread before us. Amid purple blooms of cholla cactus, piñon pines and sagebrush, two watchtowers rose above the narrow spine of the mesa top, guarding the crumbling walls of houses that once sheltered more than 1,500 people. I was immediately struck by the defensive nature of the site: an acropolis set high above the corn, squash and bean fields in the valley below; a city fortified against the inevitable outbreaks turbulence and violence unleashed by periods of prolonged scarcity.

The ground sparkled with potsherds, the shattered remnants of exquisitely crafted bowls and jars, all featuring dazzling polychromatic glazes. Some had been used to haul water up the cliffs of the mesa, an arduous and risky daily ordeal that surely would only have been undertaken during a time of extreme environmental and cultural stress. How did the people end up here? Where did they come from? What were they fleeing?“

They came here after the lights went out at Chaco,” Elijah tells me. He’s referring to the great houses of Chaco Canyon, now besieged by big oil. Chaco, the imperial city of the Anasazi, was ruled for four hundred years by a stern hierarchy of astronomer-priests until it was swiftly abandoned around 1250 AD.

“Why did they leave?” I asked.

“Something bad happened, after the waters ran out.” He won’t go any further and I don’t press him.

Source: Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone

Why We Need an Alternative History of the 20th Century 

The 20th century – like most centuries, I suppose – was an eventful one. It had a couple of world wars, the advent of pop music, inconceivable technological advancements, huge advancements in human rights, unprecedented population growth and the relentless draining of our planet’s resources.

All these things piece together to make one of the most peculiar, globe-changing centuries of recent history. But what we’re taught about in school, and the historical occasions still written about today, only cover a slim portion of the people and events that shaped the world we live in now. What about the murkier, more confusing stuff – quantum entanglement, cubism, Alastair Crowley, relativity, psychedelics, “Emperor Norton” and chaos theory?

Source: Why We Need an Alternative History of the 20th Century | VICE | United Kingdom

An Illustrated Meditation on Memory and Its Imperfections, Inspired by Borges 

“The least contaminated memory,” wrote Sarah Manguso in her magnificent meditation on memory and the ongoingness of time, “might exist in the brain of a patient with amnesia — in the brain of someone who cannot contaminate it by remembering it.” Those contaminations, of course, are the very act of living, and slicing this paradox asunder is the double-edged sword of memory itself — something legendary neurologist Oliver Sacks captured perfectly in observing that we humans are equipped with “memory systems that have fallibilities, frailties, and imperfections — but also great flexibility and creativity.”

Source: An Illustrated Meditation on Memory and Its Imperfections, Inspired by Borges | Brain Pickings